Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Racism: A distant memory or well hidden?

For years there has been a conception in this country that Racism no longer plays any part in the English game. Gone are the days when black players would openly get booed or the days where huge factions of fans would not turn up to games if there were black players playing. The problem has been solved and just as intended, racism has been kicked out of football. This view has been called into question as of late due to the serious nature of the accusations aimed at two Premiership players in recent times.

We have two completely isolated instances which couldn’t be further from each other in their nature but both rear the ugly head of the R word that we were told we were kicking out of the game. We have one where a player is accusing another of racist comments and another who’s brash and aggressive rant were presented for all to see live on television and subsequently all over the social networking sites. In fact the second case did not need the victim to accuse the alleged racist but there were numerous complaints, both to the FA and to the Metropolitan Police. Such is the complexity of the allegations in both cases I will not delve into the deeper details of each case but I will aim to give an overview and instead focus on what these allegations, if proven to be correct, mean for the game we love.

The first of these incidences occurred in a heated exchange against two huge rivals in Liverpool and Manchester United. Patrice Evra accused Louis Suarez of using a racially offensive term a number of times but has strenuously denied these claims. It is important to note that Dalglish and Liverpool Football Club have given the player their full backing.

It seemed like this issue regarding Suarez was all but resolved due to lack of evidence but following the furore surrounding the more recent issues with John Terry, they seem to have resurfaced and it is apparent there is renewed hope amongst many to restart the investigation. Regardless the second issue in a number of ways is more concerning. Not because it is a more significant offence but the fact that it was seen by hundreds of thousands of people if not millions which has heaped the pressure on both the FA and the Police to act.

Again there was a vehement rejection to the claims of racism from John Terry and he even went as far to suggest that the problem was resolved with Anton Ferdinand. The incident was further fuelled with Anton’s brother, Rio who coincidentally is John Terry’s partner for England accused the statement to be racist in an interview with the mail suggesting Terry was “blatantly racist”. This was soon followed by Anton’s assertion that he was the victim of racial abuse and he will not back down in the matter 'I didn’t know racism still existed in football until last weekend. I thought we were past all that here. I had no idea it had happened until I left the ground. It was pretty shocking. It’s crazy, I can’t believe it.'

What I find worrying about both cases is that the accused in both instances are adamant they have done nothing wrong whilst both being protected by their clubs. I understand why but I would love a club to show integrity and declare that if found guilty their player will not be welcome at the club any longer.
There was an interesting segment on Sunday supplement on Sunday 30th October regarding the issue where by all the panellists conceded that the likelihood was that Terry did in fact make these racist statements. It seems according to most sources that all evidence is pointing toward his guilt but due to the severity of the charges it seems the FA are unwilling to act with any haste. What I personally found very strange though was that Paul Smith suggested that this was more out of anger then due to Terry being a racist. This stance is perhaps one of the most worrying sentiments I have heard in a long time. How can someone who uses racist language not be a racist. It is baffling that anyone with half a brain suggest otherwise. To be fair to him he wasn’t condoning Terry’s actions he did suggest that the actions are not justified but I don’t attest to the notion he is not a racist if he said it. Luckily, my faith in the integrity and the intelligence of the British press was restored shortly after when Martin Samuel said those racist terms would not be uttered unless the perpetrator was racist.

To suggest that he was just angry and hence not a racist just does not sit well with me. I would love to hear that argument in a court of law.

It seems to me as though this case is far simpler and in my opinion it is clear that the FA must act and ensure that they deal with it in a matter that is befitting a nation that in recent years, has prided itself on being a standard bearer for racism in the game.

“I was walking down the street and this guy enraged me to the point that I needed to kill him. I stabbed him but don’t worry I am not a killer, I was just angry.”

It just would not happen by any stretch of the imagination, not with great results for the defence anyway.

Whilst I understand anyone can make a mistake, the charges in this instance are so important for football as an institution there should be zero tolerance if this is in fact true. What makes it worse is that if he did make a mistake, he should have apologised, resigned as captain of the country and club and seen what happened from the FA.

If a fan is found guilty of using racist language in the stands as has been the case a number of times in the past, the sentence is an emphatic banning from all football grounds for a set period. In the past in 1998, with then Prime Minister Tony Blair’s backing, a fan was banned for two years from all grounds and Manchester United banned him for 5 years. More recently a Norwich fan posted racist words on the social networking site, Twitter and banned him for life. Danny Lynch from the “kick it out” campaign promoted their proactive stance. Surely he, a mere 6 months later will expect even harsher treatment of the Country’s Captain.

It seems that this has already had a negative image on the Country that was disgusted with the Football World Cup being awarded to Russia due to racism, yet here we are, the captain of our Country now an alleged racist. The FA need to take firm, swift and monumental action so as to avoid presenting the image that we as a country stand by such behaviour and again proving to the world that we are indeed a country that has the world’s best league.

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