Mark Little: 'I'm devastated, the racism the players received is overwhelming'

  • Mark Little tells ITV West Country about his experience of racism

"I am devastated for the players who have suffered the abuse, they should be feeling elation and pride but they aren't feeling those things are they? It is wrong."

In February of this year Yeovil Town footballer Mark Little, who was then playing for Bristol Rovers, was subjected to racist abuse online.

He was targeted on Instagram by anonymous profiles and in the aftermath, called for the government and social media companies to introduce rules requiring identification to open accounts online.

After seeing the racism that a number of England players received following the team's penalty shoot-out defeat to Italy in the Euro 2020 final he is once again calling on people in power to do more to protect individuals in the future.

Mark Little playing for Bristol Rovers earlier this year. Credit: PA images.

Speaking about the racism he received, Mark said: "There was a range of emotions that I went through.

"Confusion at first. I had no idea where it had come from, as I don't think I'd provoked anyone at that point.

"Then it was anger, pure anger when I worked out what it was."

Now, nearly six months on, he said he still does not understand what causes people to be racist and the motives behind the abuse.

Hearing about the racist abuse experienced by three of the England squad's players this week brought back Mark's feelings of anger and confusion.

"I am absolutely devastated for the superstars because the amount of pride and the praise they should be experiencing at the moment. It is such a massive achievement and it should be a huge celebration.

"How they brought the country together after a terrible couple of years should be cherished and they should be feeling the benefits of that but they aren't going to be are they?

"I think that feeling will also be the same for the other members of the team who didn't actually get abuse," he continued.

"People like Harry Kane, they are not going to be at home experiencing all the support and the achievement because this scenario is going on. If their teammates are getting abused then that is behind them as well which isn't how it should be.

Jadon Sancho missed a penalty in the shoot-out on Sunday. Credit: PA Images.

Little said he was not surprised by the racism Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Bukayo Saka received online despite the fact they had contributed so much during the tournament.

"It is just what was expected really which is really sad to be honest," he continued.

"As soon as the penalties were missed I knew what was going to happen and what was coming. It is just overwhelming.

"It was way more than a minority of people, it was a large amount of people. It is expected and it is frustrated, it feels like it just gets shrugged off and swept under the carpet.

"People miss penalties, it is a fact, and it happens at every level of the game. People miss penalties and you shouldn't be targeted for that.

"I don't think it matters whether it is myself in non-league getting abused or the England superstars that are getting it from everywhere, it is the same feeling we all experience from the abuse."

The final on Sunday marked the first time the men's team had made it to a major international final for 55 years.

The England national team became the first men's team to reach a major tournament final since 1966. Credit: PA Images.

Despite their huge success though, Mark explained how the fall-out from the racism had made him judge whether he would have wanted to be a part of the team.

"I was thinking and I wouldn't actually want to be in their shoes which is a horrible and ridiculous thing to say, like why would I not want to be in Marcus Rashford's shoes and it is because of this," he said.

  • Mark Little speaking to ITV West Country earlier in 2021.

Now Mark thinks more action must be taken, both by the government and social media companies, to identify people online.

"I have tough skin and I have been going through it for a while so I can deal with it now but my little boy is two years old and he doesn't have that yet and I don't want him to go through it in the future.

"I don't want him to grow a tough skin, he shouldn't have to do that and no children should have to."

"I don't understand why the social media companies don't do the identification."

But Mark said there is not a quick, permanent solution, saying racism is "generational".

"I feel there needs to be some sort of massive change. I don't know what that is. I couldn't tell you what that is," he said.

He believes a start would be shifting generational attitudes by teaching young people from an early age to treat everyone with respect.