By Vasiliki Theodosiou,
Be it in an abandoned ghetto neighbourhood or in a fancy posh mansion, every single one of us departed for our livelihoods from a very specific spot. This very spot might as well be a place that we wish to preserve as memory, be proud of or even as a piece of information better off to be left hidden and unknown. Regardless, it remains an inseparable part of our identity as not only does it define us but also it potentially contributed to us becoming who we are today.
Setting theory aside, this problematisation on the matter was sparked by two separate yet possibly linkable events that have unfolded the past two weeks or so: Euro 2020 and the NBA Championship.
As much as it might not seem necessarily plain sailing to talk about England and America at the same time while linking basketball with football, the identification of some very interesting behavioural patterns towards those prevalent sport-related occurrences appears to be necessary, and we are soon to find out why.
A day after the English football team led the country to the finals of the tournament after more than 50 years of being unable to do so, the graffiti of one of the key team players -of colour- was vandalized by a group of people who decided to direct their frustration for losing in the finals to those who were not successful in scoring a penalty. Three team players: Rashford, Sancho and Saka, became the centre of criticism for their background, culture and colour that was for some reason perceived as relevant to the final outcome of the last of Euro 2020 games.
Just a week later, a member of the Bucks team, Giannis Antetokoumbo, became the central figure of public and political appraisal in Greece for winning the NBA Championship and giving an unforgettable performance at the final game. One might wonder how this is relevant or even problematic, yet the realisation occurs when one looks at the voting procedure of the Greek Parliament six years ago, on the decision of awarding Greek citizenship to first-generation immigrants born in Greece. In that very voting procedure, the current Greek Prime Minister voted against, contributing to the further marginalisation of the group under discussion.
Moving on to the present day, the very same person, claimed the “Greekness” of Giannis, praising him for his effort and performance, while going back to the English example, the very same players under discussion had become the centre of celebrations and appreciation while their “Britishness” was underlined when the team had won in the semi-final just a few days prior to their being turned into scapegoats for the final outcome.
And now, it is time to put the pieces together returning to the initial theorisation of the matter: One individual, one background, yet multiple interpretations and attitudes of other people towards this background. When it comes to winning, you are Greek, British, loving the nation and being loved by it, and re-presenting it in the outside world, whether that world is of sports, music or the simple social environment in which one lives and grows.
Nevertheless, when it comes to losing, you are black, you are an immigrant, you are a failure of the society that you potentially do not even belong in, despite the fact that it was this society that made you become who you are at this moment of reading this text.
The response towards this -personally believed to be an absurdity-, projected some hope; hope that things are changing and society has the ability to respond to hatred and racism abruptly, cutting ties with the people who express those by hurting others. Members of the English team expressed their disappointment towards racism and their support of their team members. The British Prime Minister did the same while address the public and condemning the xenophobic narrative and actions.
Is an announcement enough to “fix” us? Is it even possible to do so in the first place? The question is still here and so are you, hopefully, reading these last lines and being able to question the reality that is unfolding around you and the events that have been deemed unimportant or harmless yet hide a deep and dark societal aspect that perhaps it is time to shine a light on and cease to mysteries from now onwards.
- Financial Times. Football, racism and the England team. Available here.
- Proto Thema. Αντετοκούνμπο: Η Ελλάδα είναι χώρα λευκών – Οι γονείς μου ήταν παράνομοι, φοβόμουν ότι θα απελαθούν. Available here.
- Reuters. ‘Incredible Giannis!’ Greeks celebrate Bucks’ NBA victory. Available here.
- BBC. Marcus Rashford: Hundreds gather at mural for anti-racism demo. Available here.