Are the media fanning the flames of racial intolerance?

A saved goal
Photo by Vidar Nordli Mathison from unsplash

Did the media’s description of penalty ‘saves’ at the Euro 2021 football competition as ‘misses’ fan the flames of racial abuse? England lost the shoot-out, and when a loss occurs we English seem to need to have someone to blame. Blaming the England players for not scoring, rather than praising the Italian goalkeeper for his saves, provided us with culprits – who were then inundated with abuse, the majority of which was reported to be racially-motivated.

The penalty is the only time when football becomes a two-person event, with the player and keeper in direct opposition. There are three possible outcomes – the player scores, the player misses the goal, or the keeper saves the penalty. To score, the player has to achieve two things – they have to hit the target and they have to avoid the goalkeeper. If they fail on the first of these, they have missed the penalty. If they fail on the second it has been saved, not missed.

The media’s control of the narrative

If a keeper saves a penalty, surely they are to be praised and given the credit they deserve? For them, success involves not only correctly deciding where the player is going to hit the shot, but then also having the physical ability to make the save. To say that the player ‘missed’ the penalty is unfair to both parties.

The England keeper saved two penalties, and the media rightly praised him for doing so. Two of England’s penalties were also saved, and the Italian keeper who saved them subsequently won the ‘player of the tournament’ award. However, the media describe these penalties as having been ‘missed’ – blaming the players – instead of crediting the Italian keeper with the saves.

Fanning the flames of disorder

It beggars belief that media reports of the abuse the players have received continue to describe it as being a consequence of them having ‘missed’ their penalties. By doing so they implicitly put the blame on them for England’s loss, making them scapegoats and continuing to provide ammunition for racist bigots.

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