By Yusuf Bangura
I’ve just done a systematic comparison of the England teams in the Euros of 2021 and this current World Cup. It confirms my casual observation yesterday that there seems to be a cap on black players in the current World Cup: they shouldn’t exceed three.
Southgate has not fielded more than three black players at any given time in the four matches played so far in this World Cup. Even when substitutions are made the number of black players on the field doesn’t exceed three. This is the old, discredited informal cap on blacks players, which was criticised in the past by black fans and sympathetic commentators. It’s what I observed in the 1970s as a student in the UK watching the England team.
In the Euros of 2021 Southgate fielded four or five black players in each of the seven matches played. This represented a break with the past and recognition of the quality of black players in English football. France led the way in the 1998 and 2018 World Cups when its coaches Aimé Jacquet and Didier Deschamps respectively fielded teams with majority black or non-white players and won the World Cup on both occasions.
In this year’s tournament in Qatar, Deschamps has fielded an average of six black players in the four matches France has played. Even Germany that doesn’t have many black players fielded four black players in the three matches it played before going out of the competition.
The question is why has Southgate reverted to the old practice of fielding a maximum of only three black players. Is it that only three black players are good enough to play for England at any given time?
When I watched the England team in the Euros in 2021, I thought England had learned from the French example of fielding as many black players as possible if they’re good enough to play.
Black players constitute 43% of the players in the English Premier League. Surely, this includes non-British black players, but British black players account for a very high percentage of this number.