Euro 2020: Europeans lambast England fans but salute their team as a force for unity

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A line of police officers are the target of beer can throwers as England supporters stand around the edges of Trafalgar Square during a live screening of the UEFA Euro 2020 final football match between England and Italy in central London on 11 July, 2021.  (AFP via Getty Images)
A line of police officers are the target of beer can throwers as England supporters stand around the edges of Trafalgar Square during a live screening of the UEFA Euro 2020 final football match between England and Italy in central London on 11 July, 2021. (AFP via Getty Images)

From a post-Brexit headache which inspires hostility towards foreigners to an obsession with fulfilling a historical mission, Europeans saw England’s Euro 2020 campaign as being as much about politics as sport.

Italians, of course, delighted in their victory after the Azzuri beat England following a tense penalty shootout, but some media could not resist poking fun at their defeated opponents.

“Too beautiful, Italy champions of Europe,” ran the front page in the Gazetta dello Sport newspaper.

Tuttosport proudly used the headline: “There’s only us!”, but it could not resist adding: “Football came home”, a reference to England’s belief that 55 years without winning a major international trophy was about to come to an end.

French media was full of admiration for Italy, with L’Equippe, the biggest sports newspaper, calling the Azzurri “Invincibles”.

While Italy received praise, England fans attracted criticism over how some responded to their team’s loss.

Police arrested 49 fans after clashes between officers and ticketless spectators who tried to storm into Wembley Stadium. Nineteen police officers were hurt during the incidents.

After missing penalties, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka were flooded with racist abuse online, which was condemned by the Football Association, who said it was “disgusting behaviour”.

Some football fans in Denmark also seized upon the uglier aspects of last night’s game, claiming women would face violent attacks and that the game was used as an excuse for vandalism.

“Many women can look forward to being beaten tonight. This is a general problem – not just a few,” tweeted Jakob Kjaergaard, from Denmark.

Esben Suurballe, also from Denmark who described himself as an an anglophile, said any violence from English fans was nothing new and claimed that it had got worse since Brexit.

“There have been problems with fans of the English national team for decades – and it has gotten worse post-Brexit. There is now no reason to deny it,” he tweeted.

However, Tinne Hjersing Knudsen, chief UK correspondent for DR, Denmark’s public broadcaster, sprang to England’s defence and said that many Danes were still angry by their semi-final defeat to England.

“Seeing a lot of hatred towards the English tonight. Keep in mind that there are over 50 million of them,” she tweeted.

“And unlike other people, they speak a language in which we understand everything stupid they say. There are really, many, many nice and decent people in this country.”

Elsewhere in Scandinavia, there was a sympathetic attitude towards the England team, according to Swedish sports journalist Johanna Franden, though many fans felt they were never going to win the penalty shoot out.

“The racial abuse towards the penalty takers has been discussed a lot on social media. The general feeling is also that they were never going to win in the penalty shoot-out,” Ms Franden, of Aftonbladet, the largest newspaper in Scandinavia, told The Independent.

“All in all a good tournament from England, a team that has as many supporters in Sweden. There is this feeling ‘they will never win’ of course.”

Commentators in Spain noted how Euro 2020 became as much about uniting behind the England team which in the past had been seen as a divisive force.

Trying to combat racism among fans or using “Sweet Caroline” as the song which became an unofficial anthem for fans and players alike were all symbols of a new team, said David Álvarez, a journalist for El Pais, a Spanish newspaper.

“England’s path in this European Championship seems designed to correct a historical disenchantment after so many years of disappointment since 1966. They seemed obsessed with history.

“They have made a lot of progress in reconnecting with the people and the fans,” he told The Independent.

Mr Álvarez added: “They have done this through taking the knee, by Harry Kane wearing the rainbow armband during the Germany game, and by various social initiatives like Marcus Rashford helping children who do not have enough to eat.”

In Germany, there appeared to be some relish that England had fallen at the penalty shoot out – which has dogged the national team in the past.

The penalty shoot-out, of course, was the focus of the front page headline of Süddeutsche Zeitung, a national daily, which finished its report by focusing on how England failed at the last hurdle.

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