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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Euro 2020: Multiculturalism is England’s driving force

Gareth Southgate’s England represents unity in diversity.

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty | Kolkata |
Updated: July 7, 2021 9:55:01 pm
England's Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho, Ben Chilwell, Reece James and Marcus Rashford, from left, arrive for a training session at St George's Park, Burton upon Trent, England, Tuesday July 6, 2021, ahead of their Euro 2020 soccer championship semifinal match against Denmark in London on Wednesday. (Source: AP)

England’s successful run at the Euro 2020 goes way beyond the team’s performance on the pitch. Gareth Southgate’s boys represent unity in diversity. The team has a right-back with a Jamaican lineage, a right-winger whose parents are Nigerian immigrants and a left-sided forward who, after coming to England at the age of five, overcame several odds to be in the running for the Euros MVP.

Kyle Walker

For someone who was born to a Jamaican father, Michael, and a British mother, Tracey, growing up in a low-income family at Sheffield wasn’t easy. Football, however, offered a level playing field and Walker made steady progress after joining Sheffield United at the age of seven. From Sheffield United to Manchester City via Tottenham Hotspur for a £50 million fee back in 2017, Walker’s talent has taken him to the top.

Kieran Trippier

Born to Chris and Eleanor in Bury, Tripper came from a humble family background. He was a part of Manchester City’s Class of 2008 that won the FA Youth Cup. But the club’s Abu Dhabi takeover that made him surplus to requirements, was a huge blow. Thankfully, he had a great mentor in Sean Dyche at Burnley followed by Mauricio Pochettino at Spurs.

Reece James

Another English footballer of black ethnicity with African roots, James’s journey wasn’t bumpy, for he came from a football family. His father Nigel is an ex-footballer who earned his coaching badges post retirement. The 21-year-old rose through the ranks at Chelsea, where Frank Lampard mother-henned him.

Tyrone Mings

A Bajan by descent, Mings had a difficult childhood. From homeless shelter to other hardships, Mings overcame the difficulties through his football, rising gradually from non-league. At the ongoing Euros, he played the first two matches when Harry Maguire was injured. Now he remains a very viable backup option in central defence.

Kalvin Phillips

The midfielder recently spoke about his childhood poverty and his father Mark’s jail-time. Born to a Jamaican father and an Irish mother, Phillips’s childhood revolved around his mother Lindsay. A Leeds United academy graduate, he has been offering steel to Southgate’s team as a defensive midfielder.

Jude Bellingham

At 18, the youngest member of the squad, Bellingham grew up listening to father Mark’s exploits in non-league football. Mark unfortunately didn’t make it to the top flight. But his son is now one of the most coveted young players in world football.

Jadon Sancho

A Camberwell boy to parents from Trinidad and Tobago, Sancho was spotted by a London coach, Sayce Holmes-Lewis. A fantastic dribbler, his £73 million move from Borussia Dortmund to Manchester United has been the transfer of the season yet.

Bukayo Saka

Born in Ealing to Nigerian parents, Saka took financial constraints in his stride to achieve high grades in his GCSEs. Falling in love with Arsenal was down to geography and as social media posts from the England team suggest, he is a very popular member of the squad.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin

Another player from a mixed-race household, Calvert-Lewin’s game time at the Euros so far has been very limited. Exceptionally strong in the air, the 24-year-old striker, however, gives his manager a different option, especially if his team is made to chase a game.

Raheem Sterling

Sterling was just two years old when his father was murdered. Aged five, he moved to London and lived with his mother in Brent, overlooking the Wembley Stadium. Before the Euros, calls to drop him from the England squad grew louder on the heels of an average season with Manchester City. All along, however, Sterling has had Southgate’s support. With three goals from five matches and his overall display, the 26-year-old now carries a nation’s hopes.

Marcus Rashford

The boy from Wythenshawe, Manchester, Rashford’s work to end child food poverty during the pandemic made him a global inspiration and earned him an MBE at 23 years of age.

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