England’s successful run at the Euro 2020 goes way beyond the team’s performance on the pitch. Gareth Southgate’s boys represent unity in diversity. The team has a right-back with a Jamaican lineage, a right-winger whose parents are Nigerian immigrants and a left-sided forward who, after coming to England at the age of five, overcame several odds to be in the running for the Euros MVP.
For someone who was born to a Jamaican father, Michael, and a British mother, Tracey, growing up in a low-income family at Sheffield wasn’t easy. Football, however, offered a level playing field and Walker made steady progress after joining Sheffield United at the age of seven. From Sheffield United to Manchester City via Tottenham Hotspur for a £50 million fee back in 2017, Walker’s talent has taken him to the top.
Born to Chris and Eleanor in Bury, Tripper came from a humble family background. He was a part of Manchester City’s Class of 2008 that won the FA Youth Cup. But the club’s Abu Dhabi takeover that made him surplus to requirements, was a huge blow. Thankfully, he had a great mentor in Sean Dyche at Burnley followed by Mauricio Pochettino at Spurs.
Another English footballer of black ethnicity with African roots, James’s journey wasn’t bumpy, for he came from a football family. His father Nigel is an ex-footballer who earned his coaching badges post retirement. The 21-year-old rose through the ranks at Chelsea, where Frank Lampard mother-henned him.
A Bajan by descent, Mings had a difficult childhood. From homeless shelter to other hardships, Mings overcame the difficulties through his football, rising gradually from non-league. At the ongoing Euros, he played the first two matches when Harry Maguire was injured. Now he remains a very viable backup option in central defence.
The midfielder recently spoke about his childhood poverty and his father Mark’s jail-time. Born to a Jamaican father and an Irish mother, Phillips’s childhood revolved around his mother Lindsay. A Leeds United academy graduate, he has been offering steel to Southgate’s team as a defensive midfielder.
At 18, the youngest member of the squad, Bellingham grew up listening to father Mark’s exploits in non-league football. Mark unfortunately didn’t make it to the top flight. But his son is now one of the most coveted young players in world football.
A Camberwell boy to parents from Trinidad and Tobago, Sancho was spotted by a London coach, Sayce Holmes-Lewis. A fantastic dribbler, his £73 million move from Borussia Dortmund to Manchester United has been the transfer of the season yet.
Born in Ealing to Nigerian parents, Saka took financial constraints in his stride to achieve high grades in his GCSEs. Falling in love with Arsenal was down to geography and as social media posts from the England team suggest, he is a very popular member of the squad.
Another player from a mixed-race household, Calvert-Lewin’s game time at the Euros so far has been very limited. Exceptionally strong in the air, the 24-year-old striker, however, gives his manager a different option, especially if his team is made to chase a game.
Sterling was just two years old when his father was murdered. Aged five, he moved to London and lived with his mother in Brent, overlooking the Wembley Stadium. Before the Euros, calls to drop him from the England squad grew louder on the heels of an average season with Manchester City. All along, however, Sterling has had Southgate’s support. With three goals from five matches and his overall display, the 26-year-old now carries a nation’s hopes.
The boy from Wythenshawe, Manchester, Rashford’s work to end child food poverty during the pandemic made him a global inspiration and earned him an MBE at 23 years of age.