The Price of Patriotism

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It has been a very busy week for media coverage in relation to international football. With the upcoming Euros, we have had more reminders that the football world has a long way to go with inclusion and the tackling of exclusion.

It was tough to miss the ‘outrage’ from a minority of England fans due to Nike’s initiative to ‘playfully upgrade’ the cross on the back of England shirt’s collar. Thousands of voices online stirred by political leaders who hardly ever watch football, urged for there to be a change, and stated that the St. George flag should never be tampered with. Some took it as a mark of disrespect, believing the cross was changed to promote inclusion and representation – Nike and FA defended the design, claiming it was a tribute to the 1966 World Cup winners with colours of the training kit.

The online outburst divided football fans, and a rather telling point made was this is not the first time the cross has been altered in a design on the England kit – the argument for why it has only now sparked such outrage is because people are far too ready to call any change ‘woke’ and are not as accepting of inclusion as others. The main point against the design has been that England are being shamed for patriotism. Some of those wearing and brandishing the original English flag and colours have given it a far worse name and it has led to others being shamed or given the wrong stereotype and image. We would always promote everyone to be proud of who they are and where they come from.

However, we would say that many are forgetting what else it means to be proudly patriotic and English. Out of everything in football, it seems a bit silly to be outraged over the cross design when there are still significant struggles with racism, sexism, and general exclusion which have not been gaining anywhere near the same amount of attention. Nobody can ever perfectly describe or define what it means to be patriotic. Things are constantly changing, and people need to adapt to differences. It is essential that inclusion needs to be promoted and not frowned upon.

Far more worrying is the treatment that is constantly being meted out to Vinicius Jr. Real Madrid’s star Brazilian forward. He has once again made it clear that there is no place for bigotry in football as he has bravely spoke about the effects of racism he has faced. A young, talented football player should be able to enjoy his time at the top, instead, he has claimed he is ‘losing the desire to play.’

That statement alone breaks true football fans’ hearts, but more importantly, it breaks almost every human’s heart. Vinicius Jr is one of many to speak up and speak out – calling out the lack of punishment fans face, but also the lack of protection players have. Since 17, he has been playing in Spain and unfortunately things have not changed. You do not have to be a football fan to understand how damaging such disgraceful abuse can be – and in any workplace or industry, it can occur. I go back to my point about patriotism – excluding those you deem not part of your nation is not a sign of being patriotic, nor should it ever be celebrated to abuse others for being who they are. It’s a change needed in the world, not just football.

It’s not the only recent racist football incident we have heard recently – Stuart Webber has been called out for lazy stereotyping and racially profiling players he had worked with. Webbar stated that 4 players he worked with could’ve ended up in jail if they hadn’t pursued football – all four players were Black. The statement is just absurd and sparks an outrageous and bigoted view of current young players from tougher backgrounds and areas, especially young people of colour. Sports should be promoted and welcome the youth, but it should never be seen as the only option for them to succeed. To his credit, Webbar had the decency to apologise once this had been pointed out to him, but their families were rightly outraged and shocked.

We discussed Nike to begin with, and we will end with them too – it was announced that the German football federation has signed a deal with Nike, leaving their beloved Adidas after 70 years. The decision was a shock to everyone – sports fans, brands, and Germans across the world. What has been an incredible relationship between the two, Germany just couldn’t turn down an offer double the amount of Adidas – from £50million to £100million. From a business stance, the decision is a no brainer. Germany understood now was the time for a change – Adidas will remain until 2027, giving them a Euros and a World Cup to leave their mark on the relationship, hoping for a kit that leaves a legacy behind with a possible win in one of the tournaments.

The end of the partnership did have people disappointed as the sports brand became somewhat patriotic as it was ‘a piece of German identity’ as German Economy Minster, Robert Habeck claimed he just couldn’t see the prospect happening.

The common trend with the football news lately keeps linking back to patriotism – and it can be hard to perfectly define what makes someone patriotic, and what gives a nation its identity. As we are continuously seeing, maybe it isn’t so much about the image of people, but instead their actions, attitude, and behaviour.

Your limitations must not hold you back – enable your strengths to take you forward.


Thought of the week:

We are the change that we seek

Tips for becoming an A player:

  • Empower those around you everyday
  • Listen and learn from other people’s stories
  • Lead by example
  • Surround yourself with people different to you
  • Accept and embrace everyone’s differences

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