Activism as Manchester City beat Arsenal 3-0
When Manchester City scored the first goal the English Premier League (EPL) had seen in 100 days, only medics were in the stands to applaud.
For the last three months, it has been the nation applauding the health workers.
In protective clothing, the on-duty medical staff were among only 300 people allowed into the Etihad Stadium for the game against Arsenal that helped to end the EPL’s shutdown yesterday.
The 55,000 seats that would usually be filled were empty, mostly covered by banners. The only supporters seen celebrating goals from Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden during City’s 3-0 win were on big screens in the stands, streaming live from their homes.
The screens were also used to mourn some of those who died during the pandemic. An image of Glyn Pardoe, a former City player and coach, was shown three weeks after the virus killed him at the age of 73.
“Together we have been facing a health emergency,” the City stadium announcer said. “Heroes have risen to challenges we never imaged.”
EPL players, too, have been confronting the racism they imaged society would not still be facing in 2020.
Instead of names on the back of all player jerseys, there was the message: “Black Lives Matter.” And before kickoff came a show of solidarity against the racial injustice in society reinforced by the death of George Floyd while being arrested in Minnesota.
Standing around the centre circle, players took a knee — a powerful gesture unlike anything seen before in the league.
“I see it as a massive step by the Premier
League to allow something like that to happen,” said Sterling, who has emerged as English football’s figurehead in the fight against racism. “It shows we’re heading in the right direction. Little by little, we are seeing change and that’s what everyone is hoping for, not just black players but the majority of the country.”
It was Sterling who scored the Premier League’s first goal since March 9 by capitalising on an error by David Luiz in first-half stoppage time. The goal celebration featured a touch of elbows with teammates and a brief embrace to respect social distancing. Luiz also exited the game sooner than expected, sent off four minutes into the second half for bringing down Riyad Mahrez and conceding a penalty that De Bruyne converted.
Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne scores from the penalty spot for his team’s second goal during their English Premier League match against Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, England, yesterday.