The football game writer dreaded boos when players took a knee during a BLM protest

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An actress inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement to write a play about racism in English football has revealed she dreads the start of games because of boos when players take the knee.

Hannah Kumari, 38, said last year’s “counter-protests” in which groups targeted BLM supporters inspired her to write about her experiences as a mixed-race football fan.

“It got to a point where I was dreading the start of the games because you were wondering what was going to happen,” Kumari told the PA news agency.

Hannah Kumari wrote a new play about football in England in the late 1990s (PA)

Hannah Kumari wrote a new play about football in England in the late 1990s (PA)

“During the Euros I went to watch a game across the road on the big screen and I was feeling nervous because where I live now in Frome (Somerset) is a predominantly white town .

“But everyone clapped and clapped (when the knee was taken) and that made me very emotional.”

Twelve months earlier, Kumari, who had grown up in Rugby, Warwickshire, had started writing ENG-ER-LAND.

She said the piece – which will tour England next year from February 16 to April 2 – reflects her own experiences and hopes it will reach people who have criticized the BLM movement. She described the knee grab as “a beautiful and powerful gesture”.

“When I started writing it, I felt there were themes that hopefully a lot of people would relate to,” she said. “I wanted to do a play that was fun and uplifting, and also a celebration of my love of football that could find some common ground.”

ENG-ER-LAND combines storytelling, dance and music with 1990s nostalgia and addresses themes of racism, identity politics, male culture and working class masculinity. It takes place a year after the Euro 96 tournament, but looks back to that summer when football almost came home.

Euro 96 Gascoigne celebrity goal 3

Paul Gascoigne celebrates scoring England’s second goal against Scotland at Wembley in Euro 96 (PA)

“I remember it as the year I fell in love with football,” said Kumari, whose father is Scottish and mother Indian.

As she began to support Coventry, Kumari said she had not experienced any racism following her club.

But she clearly remembers attending a match with her father in which Ian Wright was the target of racist abuse in the late 1990s.

FA Cup Final

Arsenal’s Ian Wright was racially abused during a friendly in Scotland, says Kumari (PA)

She said: “We used to go on holiday to Scotland often and he took me to a friendly game which was Rangers v Arsenal. There were a lot of racist insults shouted at Ian Wright. Like very clear.

“I remember being very scared. Especially as a young mestizo.

Kumari believes there has been an improvement in behavior on the terraces but admitted there was a ‘sad fatality’ that racist abuse was aimed via social media at the three England players – Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka – who missed the shot on goal. -out in Italy during the Euro 2020 final.

“I think I’m someone I will always try to see positives from and it was great to see the reaction in Manchester with the mural,” she said.

Review of the year 2021

Marcus Rashford supporters have come forward after his mural was vandalized (Danny Lawson/PA)

Rashford’s mural in Manchester’s Withington district was created to pay tribute to the striker’s work to help tackle child food poverty. After his missed kick it was vandalized but locals started posting messages of support for the Manchester United player before he was restored.

One of the central themes of the play concerns Anglicism. Its manager Rikki Beadle-Blair, speaking of ENG-ER-LAND, was quoted as saying “you support England, but does England really support you?”.

“It’s a really powerful quote and one that I’ve been thinking about,” Kumari said.

“I started writing the game last summer and it was informed more by the tournament this summer and thinking back to 1996 and what has changed – and what hasn’t changed.”

– For full details of the ENG-ER-LAND tour – supported by the Football Supporter’s Association – go to https://www.wolab.co.uk/eng-er-land

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