England defender Tyrone Mings was a credit to his country after their game in Bulgaria last night. He explained how he dealt with racist abuse during the game, brought it to the officials’ attention before the game was twice stopped, and demonstrated that an important night would be remembered by him for his football achievements. He even showed sympathy for those whose limited minds permitted them to make Nazi salutes and monkey chants.
Only a few years ago columnists argued that this issue was a societal problem, not a football one. Those were simpler times when politics everywhere was not plagued by a misplaced insistence of local exceptionalism, if not downright hostility to ‘the other’.
Attitudes change slowly in some places but the reaction after the game in Sofia, specifically the Bulgarian prime minister calling for his FA chief to be sacked, help. Some of us have seen it all, from that infamous banana 30 years ago, to less publicised moments against Sporting 7 years before that. England is currently caught in a peculiar 1930s re-run, so reaction there will be measured. No one should raise their head proudly on this issue.
Tyrone Mings is typical of the modern England I know. Last night he encapsulated its future. You can trace racism from the 30s, to the terraces of the 70s and 80s, to today’s local exceptionalism – wherever local is to you. It never went away in 1939 but I doubt it has had so many vocal opponents.