Talking Points

Racism – it never went away

IT is not easy to warm to some of today’s footballers, especially those that find it hard to resist conspicuous consumerism or consider that with enormous wealth comes permission to misbehave. Who was it said that players were this class people earning first class wages?

That aside, in an age where many of the sins of the past are being addressed, racism, anti-semitism (take note, Mr Corbyn), homophobia, sexism and other isms are rightly no longer tolerated. Once again, football has let itself down and people are horrified that, in 2018, we are still seeing examples of unacceptable rascist abuse.

Should we be that surprised? Britain, since 2016, seems to have given license to bigots, closet racists, the ignorant and the myopic. Or maybe these people just feel that, in the spirit of xenophobia, they can comfortably come to the fore once more.

Raheem Sterling may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but he’s an excellent player who has not had an easy early life. Like any of Chelsea or Manchester City’s black players, he’s entitled to believe he should not be addressed in the way that has been widely reported. Fair play to Sterling for speaking out.

We would be naive to suggest that racism doesn’t exist, it is bubbling away beneath the surface at football. At major grounds, it is not unusual to hear, at a very localised level as opposed to the chanting of the 1970s and 1980s, references to “that big black bastard” or similar comments. It is also still considered “banter” to make racist jokes, just as it is “having a laugh” to be sexist or homophobic.

To be fair, the current generation has a very different take on these subjects. Ask anyone who has a son or daughter in their early 20s and they will invariably accuse their parents of racism or homophobia when, unwittingly, they say something that is not longer acceptable.

I was shocked to witness, two or three years ago, at a London game, a man in his 50s walk up to a young black fan and say: “We don’t want your type here, f*** off to Arsenal.” While this was going on, friends of the assailant (mixed races and ages) just laughed, while a steward (who was black) stood grinning.

Older generations, schooled to believe that Great Britain is called just that because of its Empire rather than its geography, were brought up in a different time, so they will often make mistakes and be somewhat clumsy. That’s not an excuse, but it does mean they have to be careful how they come across. But incidents like the one I experienced are completely inexcusable.

The current discussions around anti-semitism, and the laughable attempts to sweep them under the carpet, are also typical of the way something as culturally sensitive as persecution of Jews can be tolerated. A few years ago, I attended a game at Wingate & Finchley, a club steeped in Jewish sporting culture. “We’re playing the Jew Boys today,” said one club official of the visiting team. I commented that this was no way to describe the home club, but the reply was: “ I can tell you’re not 100% British.”

Almost 20 years ago, I tried to highlight the level of racism and homophobia at a local club. People were incensed and one or two wanted me banned for expressing my opinion. Times and attitudes have changed, thankfully.

Similarly, the attitude to women in football is still seen as a curiosity, despite the increased exposure the women’s game has received. Again, back in the early 2000s, referee Alison Chapman was called everything from a bitch to a whore for awarding a last minute penalty at a game in Croydon. I was incensed and commented to the club’s officials that this was an outrageous way for them to behave. What’s more, when I reported on the incident, I received messages of “shame on you” from supporters of a rival club. Sometimes, football gets the people it deserves.

More women in football is undoubtedly a naturally good thing, although we are still a long way from creating the perfect environment.  Football could do with less testosterone and fewer alpha males. The recent “twerking” incident confirms  there is still a lot of work to do.

And the Sterling story also shows that we haven’t yet learned how to respect each other properly – in a country that often considers it is one of the more sophisticated in Europe, one that championed its multi-culturalism as an asset. The last two years have demonstrated that the wheel may have been turning backwards for a while.

 

Photo: PA

2 comments

  1. That needed to be said. Well done. Sooner we get rid of racist, xenophobic and sexist behaviour in all walks of life in this country, we can start to regain some pride.

  2. Yes well said,we need more people speaking up over these issues,it is time.There was a black guy in the crowd surrounded by the guilty when Sterling got the recent abuse,so it made me think;what was going through his mind as this took place?
    I know that he maybe didn’t know their names but,he must see the guilty at every home game attends.Although,I can understand why he didn’t come forward to speak up and identify them,his life,well,his football life anyway,would never have been the same again.
    Sterling is a famous national team player,the black guy is merely just another fan,but the guilty could easily get to him,for physical abuse is what some of them would sink to,probably all of them,unfortunately.
    Chelsea fans were at it again in Europe,they have a track record for this type of behaviour but they are not alone,there’ll be a minority at just about every club that sinks below acceptable behaviour levels.It’s a human thing,there are always fans that blacken the name of their clubs and that makes you think that these people aren’t the brightest.Their respective clubs will have fines to pay and could even have their teams points deducted,and if that statement is wrong,well,that’s a measure that should definitely be considered.I’m sure their clubs wouldn’t be long in removing these undesirables when that points deduction reduced their chances of winning any competition and playing in Europe.
    Great read,keep up the great work,☮️🍺

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