In Sofia, on another ugly night for the beautiful game, it fell to Gareth Southgate to cleanse the smug hypocrisy with the sunlight of undiluted truth. His counterpart, the Bulgarian coach, had turned a studiously deaf ear to the monkey chants. English supporters in the stadium did hear, and responded with more piety than historical or ironic awareness by singing an anti-racist chant.
The ensuing riot of virtual signalling complacency – from the media; from serious political thinkers like sports minister Nigel Adams (“Racism should never be tolerated,” was the searingly original offering from this Boris Johnson hireling; from the watermelon smiles statesman himself – came from an alternate reality.
It emanated from a utopian parallel Britain in which racism only exists either in that vast tract of uncivilised wasteland known as abroad, or domestically in that other country that is our past. And then, praise be, disdaining the glib synthetic outrage to speak the simple truth, there was Southgate. “Sadly, because of their own experiences in our country,” he said of the three splendid black players whose dignity on the pitch had pre-empted his own, “they are hardened to racism. I don’t know what that says about our society, but that’s the reality.”
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