Sweet and sour at Euro 2020
My joy for Italy’s victory is eclipsed by concern for England’s rising star 19 year old Bukayo Saka’s mental health. With 60,000 fans & the world watching he was asked to take his first ever professional penalty as the all important deciding 5th penalty. This was his first major tournament & he was thrown under the bus in the penalty shootout, selected over veterans like Jack Grealish and Raheem Sterling.
Saka had never taken a penalty in over 90 appearances for his club Arsenal and this season, three other teammates had been preferred over him to take penalties. England Manager Gareth Southgate justified the move saying that Saka had been ‘practicing’ penalties well. He learnt the hard way that specialists are only formed in the heat of battle.
Lots of lessons:
1. The practice pitch is no substitute for big match experience
2. Take ownership and accountability, don’t blame and work hard to heal and fix the issue
3. Lots of work to be done building empathy towards the destructive effects of racism & overcoming the ‘get over it’, ‘suck it up’, ‘other people have gone through it’ mentality
4. Even the best make mistakes
Southgate, like us all can make blunders and it’s how you respond and he has taken complete ownership of the mistake which is fantastic. He is also proactively offering his time to work with the clubs on the players mental health rather than hiding away which shows the class of the man.
A classic example of leadership & decision making wilting under extreme pressure. To compound it, he and some of his teammates were viciously trolled by racists.
I hope this young man can come through the fire of this terrible life moment. God bless you Bukaya!
Image source: EPA: Laurence Griffiths