An open letter to the Three Lions – Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho
17 July 2021
Dear Three Lions,
We are writing to express our solidarity with each of you, your families, friends and to each of your fans who look up to you and root for your success. We offer our love, our compassion, and our gratitude for your courage in being role models for those who are oppressed in society. We join those who are sane in this country and around the world in condemning the shameful minority who have showered hate on you simply because of the colour of your skin, after the Euro 2020 finals in Wembley.
Football has both united and divided us as a society. There are 650 million fans across the world for one premiership football club in Manchester. This fan-following clearly transcends artificial borders and walls that some in society build to keep us apart. The hope and aspiration that united the country in the English team’s campaign to reach the final of the Euro 2020 championship, for the first time in 55 years, is phenomenal. For this we are grateful to the statesmanship and inclusive leadership demonstrated by Gareth Southgate.
Leaders share their vision and inspires people that follow and when the chips are down, stands up to be accountable and take responsibility. Gareth has the conviction that England could win this and many other international campaigns, the courage to trust the youngest of players in being able to play against the mightiest of teams and the vision to see why football can bring the deeply divided country and society together. At a time of most need, when the world, including England, has been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, our lives and livelihood badly affected, this phenomenal campaign by the young English football team of which you are an integral part is truly inspiring.
The whole team deserves the accolades, the love and gratitude that the country has showered upon them for their unimaginable success. But the three of you deserve so much more. Your young shoulders carry the burden of the huge swathes of people in our society who have no voice, who face bias and discrimination daily, whose aspirations are often systematically denied, whose dreams are dashed even before they can be formulated. Marcus, your campaign for school meals has saved thousands of children from the daily truth of hunger. This level of child poverty and dependence on food banks is a shameful reality of one of the richest countries in the world. This existed before the pandemic and will continue to be reality for thousands even when we are back to normal.
Football and the NHS have a common challenge – racism is also deeply embedded in our health services. The significant difference in health outcomes and survival between groups of people in the
UK, despite having a fully-funded, universally accessible National Health Service (which is the envy of the world), due to their race, ethnicity and social class, itself is a travesty. We, who dedicate our lives to serve the country as healthcare professionals, are fully aware of the deep rooted inequalities that play out in our GP surgeries, during our hospital ward rounds and in our discussions with our patients or their next-of-kin. Many of us also face the same degree of overt and covert discrimination in our own workplaces and our personal lives. Our children are often denied their due in society because of their race, religion, colour, or ethnicity. Sometimes it is their gender identity, their disability or that they were born and raised by immigrant families.
As individuals we often feel helpless in being able to make a change. However, through our voluntary organisations we are learning to stand up, to make our opinions known and our voices heard. The British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin is 25 years young in 2021, and in its journey, it has stood for equality, diversity and inclusion not only for healthcare professionals but for society. During the pandemic, BAPIO raised over half-a-millions in funds to support essential oxygen, food and lifesaving breathing support machines to many remote areas in India. Many of us have been born, raised and trained overseas and have answered the call for the NHS to come and dedicate our lives in the service of the people of the UK. Our children are born British first, learn to love and hope for their country and root for the ‘cup to come home’.
Many of us are forced to pay additional fees for access to the NHS that we dedicate ourselves to, denied the opportunity to provide care to our dependent families by the harsh and hostile immigration policies. What hurts most is that we remain ‘outsiders’ and despite dedicating the best years of our lives; our blood, sweat and toil. We understand why, on missing the penalties instantly you knew the hate that would be showered upon you by some in the country. That is the reality for those in our society who face this denial of privilege, daily in their lives. Your heartbreak and tears on missing the final trophy are also our tears and our heartbreak. Health care professionals have learnt to deal with pain, suffering and loss of lives, yet a football heartbreak made us cry.
We are fully aware that the vast majority of people are fair and believe in equality. What concerns us, and no doubt must bother you, is why as a society we tolerate the blatantly hateful behaviour of the minority. Surely there has to be zero tolerance, which must be enforced with dispassion.
You give those who are denied privilege in our country and around the world, hope. You are our Three Lions. You give us inspiration. We stand with you. Together we will strive for equality and to eradicate racism, the real virus in society.
Feature image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay