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LONDON: Black players in the England soccer team have been subjected to a storm of online racist abuse after their defeat in the final of Euro 2020, drawing wide condemnation from the squad's manager, royalty, religious leaders and politicians.

Marcus Rashford, 23, Jadon Sancho, 21, and Bukayo Saka, 19, were the targets of the abuse after they missed spot-kicks in a penalty shootout with Italy which settled Sunday's final after the game finished as a 1-1 draw.

The comments have prompted a police investigation and wide condemnation, although critics accused some ministers of hypocrisy for refusing to support a high-profile anti-racist stance the players had made during the tournament. "For some of them to be abused is unforgivable," England manager Gareth Southgate told a news conference. "I know a lot of that has come from abroad, that people who track those things have been able to explain that, but not all of it."

The England team have earned praise for their stand against racism, while a number of players have also campaigned on other social causes. The multi-racial make-up of the squad had been hailed as reflecting a more diverse modern Britain.

The team had highlighted the issue of racism by taking the knee before all their matches - a protest made by American footballer Colin Kaepernick and followed by the Black Lives Matter movement last year - saying it was a simple show of solidarity against racial discrimination.

However, some fans have booed the gesture, with critics viewing it as a politicization of sport and expression of sympathy with far-left politics.

Some ministers have been accused of hypocrisy for refusing to criticise those who booed and using it as part of a wider "culture war", often portrayed as a rift between those wanting to protect Britain's heritage from a "woke" youth, who see their elders as blocking moves to end racial and social injustice.

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