GARETH SOUTHGATE: Playing for England is about inspiring and uniting

GARETH SOUTHGATE: Playing for England is about inspiring and uniting

GARETH SOUTHGATE pens opens letter to the nation ahead of the Euros: Playing for England is about much more than the result. It’s about how we bring people together, how we inspire and unite

  • Gareth Southgate will lead out England at the European Championships this year
  • The Three Lions are looking to put 55 years of hurt behind them this summer
  • Southgate has written an open letter to England fans on The Players’ Tribune
  • The England boss discusses the team tackling racial injustice as well as winning 
  • Find out the latest Euro 2020 news including fixtures, live action and results here.

Gareth Southgate has published an impassioned open letter to the nation ahead of England’s European Championship campaign.

The Three Lions manager will lead his side at the summer tournament with England looking to put 55 years of hurt behind them, starting with their first group game against Croatia at Wembley on Sunday.

Writing on the Players’ Tribune website in the wake of fans booing his players while taking the knee, he opened up on national identity, pride, and why today’s generation of stars feel a duty to protest against racial injustice… 

Gareth Southgate has written an open letter to England fans ahead of Euro 2020 this summer

Southgate will lead out the Three Lions this summer in their European Championships bid

Dear England,  

It has been a difficult year. Everyone in this country has been affected by isolation and loss.

But we have also seen countless examples of heroism and sacrifice. It’s given us all a new understanding of the fragility of life and what matters. When you think of the grand scheme of things, perhaps football doesn’t seem so important. And what I want to speak about today is much bigger than football.

There’s something I tell our players before every England game, and the reason I repeat it is because I believe it with all my heart. I tell them that when you go out there, in this shirt, you have the opportunity to produce moments that people will remember for ever. You are a part of an experience that lasts in the collective consciousness of our country.

The first England match Southgate can recall is Bryan Robson starring at the 1982 World Cup

The first England match I remember was in the 1982 World Cup, when I was 11. I had the wallchart, ready to fill in. I rushed home from school for England’s opener against France to see Bryan Robson score after just 27 seconds! To witness that as a young Manchester United-supporting midfielder… well, I was hooked.

For me, my sense of identity is closely tied to my family, particularly my grandad. He was a fierce patriot and a proud military man, who served during World War II.

The idea of representing ‘Queen and country’ has always been important to me. We do pageantry so well in Britain, and growing up things like the Queen’s Silver Jubilee and royal weddings had an impact on me.

The England manager revealed his pride of representing ‘Queen and country’ in football

Because of my grandad, I’ve always had an affinity for the military and service in the name of your country. I couldn’t help but think of my grandad when I lined up to sing the national anthem before my first international caps.

My belief is that everyone has that pride. And that includes the players. Our players are role models. And we must recognise the impact they can have on society, and give them the confidence to stand up for their teammates and the things that matter to them as people.

It’s their duty to interact with the public on matters such as equality, inclusivity and racial injustice, while using the power of their voices to help put debates on the table, raise awareness and educate.

Social media has been a key resource in giving our players a platform and has been a positive tool in many ways. This generation of England players is closer to the fans than they have been for decades. Despite the polarisation in society, these lads are on the same wavelength as you on many issues.

Southgate claims football figures interact with the public on matters such as racial injustice

There are genuine risks for our players online and I will always want to protect them, but I would never put rules on how or when they use their accounts while on England duty.

I trust them. They are mature enough to make their own decisions, do what’s right for their mental health and to keep being a force for good as we strive for a better society. The last 18 months have put added pressure on everyone. Venting that might have taken place while walking out of the stadium or in the pub has been transferred online. I get that.

However, there are things I will never understand. Why tag someone in on a conversation that is abusive? Why insult somebody for something as ridiculous as the colour of their skin? Why?

Unfortunately for those people, I have bad news. You’re on the losing side. It’s clear that we are heading for a much more tolerant society, and our lads will be a big part of that.

Three Lions players have been booed by some supporters for taking the knee in friendlies 

The awareness around inequality and race have gone to a different level in the last 12 months alone. I am confident that young kids of today will grow up baffled by old attitudes.

For many of that younger generation, your notion of Englishness is quite different from my own. I understand that, too. I understand that we have a desire to protect our values and traditions — as we should — but that shouldn’t come at the expense of introspection and progress.

Regardless of your upbringing and politics, it is clear that we are an incredible nation, relative to our size and population, that has contributed so much to the arts, science and sport. We have a special identity, and that remains a powerful motivator.

In a funny way, I see the same Englishness represented by the fans who protested against the Super League. We are independent thinkers. We speak out.

Southgate said the way supporters reacted to the Super League saga shows the good of fans

The England manager claims the result is just a small part of the influence his team can bring

Of course, my players and I will be judged on winning matches. Only one team can win the Euros. We have never done it before and we are desperate to. Believe me. But the reality is that the result is just a small part of it. When England play, there’s much more at stake than that.

It’s about how we conduct ourselves on and off the pitch, how we bring people together, how we inspire and unite, how we create memories that last beyond the 90 minutes. That last beyond the summer. That last for ever.

I think about all the young kids who will be watching this summer, filling out their first wallcharts. No matter what happens, I just hope that their parents, teachers and club managers will turn to them and say, ‘Look. That’s the way to represent your country. That’s what England is about. That is what’s possible.’

If we can do that, it will be a summer to be proud of.

Yours, Gareth Southgate.

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