Prince William issued a strong statement Monday saying he was “sickened” by racist abuse aimed at Black English soccer players after the team lost the big European soccer final to Italy in London on Sunday night.
William’s intervention came after Black players endured a torrent of abuse on social media and were taunted with racist emojis and phrases after three Black players missed key penalties that decided the game in Italy’s favor.
William’s remarks were echoed by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who had previously refused to condemn England fans who booed the players taking a knee in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
The racist abuse marked a miserable end to a match that at one stage threatened to be a glorious moment of sporting triumph.
England’s team had sent national hopes soaring when they went into the lead with a goal in the second minute of play. Images of Prince George, 7, celebrating as he watched the match with his parents, William and Kate, captured the national mood of elation.
However as the game wore on, England failed to cement its lead. Italy then scored an equalizer and the young royal family looked increasingly anxious in their VIP aerie. And when the match culminated in the lost penalty shoot out, George, wearing a suit and tie, looked utterly bereft, with his father placing his hand on his shoulders as he sought to console him.
It was a late and emotional night for the youngster, but he didn’t burst into tears, like many of the adults present.
William, who is president of the English Football Association, sent out a message shortly after the end of the match in which he congratulated Italy on its victory and sought to boost English morale ahead of next year’s World Cup in Qatar.
Rubbing shoulders with the royals in the VIP box were Boris Johnson, model Kate Moss, former England captain David Beckham and, rather bizarrely, Tom Cruise, who is shooting a new Mission Impossible movie in the U.K.