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Racism In English Football

In many respects we’ve come a long way from the overt racism I remember in the ’60s and ’70s, but every now and again I feel a shudder that keeps me aware that it still resides not far beneath the surface.

I don’t normally comment about football related issues, but this has a wider social context. Football has recently become the focus of some high-profile accusations of racism, but with investigations ongoing with regards to the Evra / Suarez and Ferdinand / Terry cases, applying the premise of innocent until proven guilty, I don’t want to opine directly about these instances. However, there have been a couple of newspaper quotes I’ve read during the past week that beggar belief.

On October 26th the Daily Mail columnist Steve Doughty talked of how far football has come since the days of monkey taunts and bananas being thrown onto the pitch at black players back in the ’70s. He related an incident at an Arsenal match his mother attended in more recent times, where a fan shouted racial abuse at one of his own teams players, but then, when he realised that this was in earshot of the elderly lady, he politely said to her ‘I’m terribly sorry about the racist comment.’ The columnist seemed to think that this was a sign of progress, concluding that:

“You could not imagine such a thing happening at a football match 30 years ago. Football reflects us all as it always did, and these days it’s both racist and not racist at the same time. Things may not be perfect but, at the end of the day, Gary, there are worse things to complain about.

So, Mr Evra and Mr Ferdinand, I know you feel insulted. But perhaps in this case you could just put up with it and get on with the game.”

Full piece: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2052843/John-Terry-racism-row-Anton-Ferdinand-game.html

Then, last weekend, the Wigan Athletic chairman, Dave Whelan, weighed in with his tuppence worth:

“I think we should forget colour and … you know, it doesn’t bother anybody. Sometimes a footballer, when they’re playing at such a level, with the stress there is … if they call somebody white, if they call somebody black, you’ve just got to get on with it.

You know, I think the players who come and complain, sometimes they are a little bit out of order.”

Full piece: http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2011/oct/30/wigan-chairman-race-row?newsfeed=true

These two men are basically saying that because racial abuse is not as bad as it used to be, black footballers should turn a deaf ear. They even go as far as seeming to apportion blame to the alleged victims for rocking the boat with their accusations. It’s no wonder that many other black footballers have, no doubt, kept their mouths shut rather than run the risk of finding themselves in the dock for ‘playing the race card’, their reputation tarnished in the process. It’s a topsy-turvy logic where the finger is pointed at the one who claims to be the injured party, before a proper investigation has even been carried out. This hardly tallies with the ‘Stand Up, Speak Out’ message of a few years back.

The banter between players may be a part of the game, but racial insults cut deeper than general ones, given the history of discrimination and repression that shamed our country in previous decades. There’s no place for such derogatory rhetoric here in the 21st Century, in what is now very much a multicultural society. If a player is found to have fabricated a story of racial abuse, then that’s a serious matter, but until this is proven to be the case they should be encouraged to come forward, not criticised in the media for doing so.

This whole controversy has highlighted the fact that, although the UK is now, by law, a racially tolerant country, there’s still some way to go before this fully translates into everyday life. As long as those in positions of influence, like Steve Doughty and Dave Whelan, are able to express such misguided viewpoints, people need to engage caution when assuming that racism in this country, whether it be in football or in a wider context, has been consigned to the dustbin of history.

Racism In The United Kingdom Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racism_in_the_United_Kingdom

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7 Responses to Racism In English Football

  1. Jon Vangorph October 31, 2011 at 5:16 pm #

    I’d love to think that if I were to sit down with Steve Doughty and Dave Whelan that I could coax out something more than this racist drivvle. Maybe the point they were trying to make was something more than this, lost in translation.
    Alas, I fear that even more narrow minded, unthoughtful and ignorant nuggets of poop would likely spill forth.

    Whelan’s “out of order” comment is staggering, how on earth he can place ANY level of blame on the victims of racism is beyond me and I hope he has been made to feel ashamed of his comments by the club and supporters.

    People don’t take racism seriously, people aren’t facing the problem, it’s prevalent and will continue to be unless people’s attitudes change. That’s throughout the game, from the top flight to the lower leagues.

    I’m thankfully too young to remember the football of old, but as all good dad’s do, I’m forever reminded of the “good old days” so I’m aware of how bad racial abuse was. I’ll concede I think there has been some improvment but going from the disgraceful levels of abuse my dad describes to “ever so slightly better” is not acceptable and doesn’t permit anyone who’s a part of the game to sit around patting each other on the back because it “doesn’t bother anybody”. IT DOES. Rant over.

  2. Naomi October 31, 2011 at 11:58 pm #

    Great post Greg. I’ll admit I don’t have any real knowledge or experience of what sounds like the heyday of casual, or not-so-casual racism in football, but what never fails to get my goat is the shallow pedling of thinly-velied ‘isms’ by rags such as The Daily Mail. To suggest that players on the receiving end of racist comments should just shut up and put up is so wholly offensive that I literally am lost for words. Thanks for highlighting the imbecility of these opinions, and let’s hope more people keep on shooting them down in flames.

    On a brighter note, big up Walter Tull, not only a great footballer by all accounts but for being one of the first non-white men to be commissioned as an officer despite the ban excluding “Negroes” from acting as commanding officers.

  3. Chris November 2, 2011 at 9:07 am #

    Good piece greg

  4. phil hongkins November 13, 2011 at 9:20 pm #

    nice one greg , sick o this shit after every case of racist behavior , comments whatever the F A do what it says on the tin F A ,whenever football people discuss this issue they allways fudge on about its wrong but its not as bad as it used to be, and theres allways the eastern europeans !!! . at least the met are now having a look @ mr terrys shal we say colourful volcabulary mayb e something will finally get done . because left up to the fa that would be the outcome F A if you get my drift ?? the fruit may have gone but the songs and therefore opinions remain the same they just dont front like they used to in the 70s .. i await the outcome BUT i am not holding my breath

  5. lec November 30, 2011 at 10:06 pm #

    Great piece Greg. I find myself saying “it’s better than it used to be” a lot. That doesn’t make it right, or the person abused feel any better though.
    Do make a fuss. Do complain. Do stand up and confront prejudice. Do make a difference.

  6. dave December 14, 2011 at 9:32 am #

    Just recently here in Germany , Rostok fans were throwing bananas onto the pitch, as there were ” Darker skinned ” Players playing for St Pauli. I personally would have just banned Rostok from playing in the future.

  7. c4sp3r December 14, 2011 at 11:04 pm #

    unfortunately theres still racism in dutch football as well… great article btw 🙂

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