“The joy of being able to concentrate on football”: this is the liberating tweet with which Gary Lineker greeted his return on video to host a broadcast on the Fa Cup, after the suspension that had been decided by the BBC for having approached the grip of the football on social networks government on migrants to Nazi Germany. “It’s good to be here,” the 62-year-old commentator and former England captain said on Saturday afternoon, without referring to the political case he unleashed.
By now, however, Lineker has also become an icon of opposition to the Tory plan against immigration: at a march against racism in Glasgow, in the same hours, hundreds of protesters marched with masks depicting his face. Meanwhile, the Sunak government is going ahead with its plan: the Interior Minister, Suella Braverman, signed an agreement in Kigali which provides that migrants who arrive illegally in the United Kingdom will be deported to Rwanda as early as this summer. Lineker, along with fellow ex-footballers Alan Shearer and Micah Richards watched Manchester City’s FA Cup quarter-final against Burnley at the Etihad Stadium. And Shearer himself, who had chosen not to go on the air last week out of solidarity, apologized to viewers: “It has been a really difficult situation for all concerned. Through no fault of their own, some fantastic people from television and radio they were put in an impossible situation. And it wasn’t fair. So it’s nice to get back to normal and talk about football again.”
The thanks of a refugee
Meanwhile, an Afghan refugee who in 2020 had been hosted for a few weeks in Lineker’s luxurious villa in Surrey took the field to praise him as “a thoughtful and loving defender of humanity”. “It should be a source of pride for the British,” 35-year-old law student Rasheed Baluch said in an interview with the Mirror. “It is unfair and undemocratic that the institutions reacted so negatively to his words”, he added, “he was friendly and open-minded. When I told him the story of my country and my escape from Balochistan where I leave my wife, he listened to me carefully. He’s a star but he lives in a simple way, he’s very nice and he cooked me amazing fish, chicken and meat dishes”.