Church Analytics

Saturday, April 21, 2007

An Article on Racism in Football

Eto'o, from Cameroon, has been the target of much racist abuse. To his credit, like Henry, he has not remained silent, even though, in this climate of denial, black players are risking their own prospects by speaking out. After he scored in a match against Real Zaragoza, the crowd started to monkey chant; Eto'o responded by imitating a monkey. 'People paid for their tickets to see a monkey and so I did it. Each time this happens then I will do it.' A relatively recent arrival in Spain, Eto'o added: 'I thought the racist chanting was just a fad, but it seems to be becoming more widespread and more vitriolic.'

A recent occassion was in the Euro 2004 qualifier in October 2002 between England and Slovakia in Bratislava when the crowd - in a country with barely any black people - erupted seemingly to a person in racist abuse, including even the stretcher-bearers. In that case, however, the football authorities were contrite, formally apologising both to the English Football Association and to the players. Spain is a different proposition. It is one of the great footballing nations, home to Real Madrid and Barcelona, and it has refused to condemn what happened; the near-silence has, in effect, condoned the racist behaviour both of Aragonés and the fans.

Football is the fault line of racism in Europe. No other activity, be it cultural or political, commands the emotion, passion and allegiance, certainly of men, in the same way. Football is the cultural lingua franca of European men.Football is an exemplar of society: it mirrors and gives expression to society's passions and prejudices in a way that politics, for example, is, for the most part, quite unable to do. Indeed, it is about the only activity in which men collectively and publicly express their own emotions.

There is another, very particular reason why football plays this role. As a game, it is a great leveller. Anyone can play it. You need neither money nor resources; you simply need time and space to practise. If football was, until recently, the preserve of the white working class, now the archetypal player is black - and Brazilian, African or from the African diaspora.

Football has given the world's poor a chance to succeed and find a place in the sun. The great leveller has, in this context, even managed to overcome the formidable barrier of European racism: despite all the prejudice, black players are now present in every major European league, in very large numbers in the case of England and France

Marcel Desailly.

Racist chanting may have been largely banished from the terraces, but racist attitudes still pervade the game. One only has to recall Ron Atkinson's remark in 2004 about Marcel Desailly, that he was 'a fucking lazy thick nigger'. And it was no slip of the tongue. At a fund-raising dinner in January 2005, he said: 'I can't understand why there is such a population problem in China as they have the best contraception going - Chinese women are the ugliest in the world.'

Dwight Yorke

The incidents of racist abuse are still legion. The Egypt striker Mido was abused by Southampton fans in March when playing for Spurs; there was the mass racist abuse by England fans in the match against Turkey at Sunderland's Stadium of Light in April 2003; there was the racial abuse of Birmingham's Dwight Yorke at Blackburn in November 2004; and even claims of players being racially abused by their opponents. These are just a few examples. But they are much less than they were in the dark days of the Eighties, above all because the football authorities no longer choose to ignore racism on the terraces. Such action does not in itself change attitudes - it merely makes overt racist behaviour unacceptable - but it can help foster a different climate.

The stridency of the condemnation carried more than a hint of the sanctimonious: the implication that somehow the English game was no longer tainted with racism. An interesting trait of racism is that the perpetrators - conscious or unconscious - are always in denial. It was so in the 1970s and 1980s, when monkey chanting and banana throwing were at their height in the English game and it was rarely ever reported on. And it was true again now as people in the game queued up to condemn the events in the Bernabéu while remaining silent about the racist practices that abound in the Football Association, the clubs and the media at home.

Paul Elliott, a former Chelsea captain who, like Barnes, was once the object of endless racial taunts, says: 'It is much better than the Seventies and Eighties, when the atmosphere was intimidatory. Back then the mindset was that you just had to put up with it; it was part of the game. It was conveniently swept under the carpet. It was taboo. It was never reported.'
'It's good that people are talking about racism now,' says Barnes, 'but it's how they're talking. The biggest thing for me is the hypocrisy of the people who were around 10 or 15 years ago when this was going on (in England). Why weren't they saying anything then? Is it just politically correct to be doing it now?' As Barnes implies, the racism at football matches was virtually never written about in the newspapers, either on the front or back pages. For its part, the BBC used to turn down the sound feed so the listeners could not hear the monkey chanting, and the commentators and pundits almost never mentioned it.

The roots of racism, however, lie deep in the white English psyche. It has not disappeared simply because it is much less visible or audible than it once was. That racism is no longer tolerated does not mean that it has somehow been eradicated. As Paul Elliott puts it: 'While there has been good progress, we can't be complacent - if we do, the ugly days of the Eighties could return.'
Or, indeed, the FA's DVD in 2005- The Pride of the Nation - that featured what were described as the 20 best England players of the past 40 years. They were all white. In response to a wave of protests, the DVD was rapidly withdrawn.

Such oversights are not accidental. They are related to the fact that institutions such as the FA remain oppressively white. Every single member of their 14-member ruling board is white and, likewise, the 92-member FA Council. Black players may have gained widespread acceptance on the pitch - a quarter of the players in the Premiership are black or mixed race - but otherwise football remains a shockingly white world.

Football is a multiracial game only on the pitch. The facts speak for themselves.

There are no black managers in the Premiership. There are only three black managers in the whole Football League: Leroy Rosenior at Torquay, Keith Alexander at Lincoln and Carlton Palmer at Mansfield. Every member of the board of the Premiership clubs, bar one, is white - and it is the boards that appoint the managers. Only 2 per cent of the management staff and 4 per cent of the administrative staff are non-white. Less than 1 per cent of season-ticket holders at Premiership clubs are black or Asian. There is one predictable exception to this virtual white-out. A fifth of 'other staff ' - catering, turnstiles, cleaning - are non-white.

Former black players have found it enormously difficult to get jobs as coaches, let alone managers. The two Premiership exceptions, Ruud Gullit and Jean Tigana, were both huge international stars, Dutch and French respectively. The story of Ricky Hill, a former Luton player, who gained three caps for England, is the tale of many. He went to the United States, where he managed a side, receiving the American Professional League's coach of the year award in 1992, before returning to England to take charge of youth teams at Sheffield Wednesday and then Spurs.

In 2000, he was appointed manager of Luton Town, two weeks before the season began. 'I went in wide-eyed - to bring better times to the club,' he says. 'But it was very difficult. The playing staff needed drastic surgery.' After four months in the post he was dismissed. He had hardly got his feet under the table. You can feel Hill's pain, his sense of disappointment. He has never had another opportunity in this country, either in management or coaching. Paul Davis, the former Arsenal midfielder, tells a very similar story, of being overlooked even though he was eminently qualified. It is virtually impossible to prove discrimination on grounds of colour. As John Barnes says: 'Unless the chief executive says, "Get rid of that nigger" and you've got it on tape, how can you prove it?'

In truth, when virtually everyone involved in the decision-making is white and the applicant is black, then, in some shape or form, colour is invariably lurking somewhere in the mental undergrowth. Les Ferdinand and Paul Ince have both stated their desire to enter management. They won't find it easy.

The implicit racial stereotyping is obvious. Blacks are accepted as footballers, but not as managers. Just as in the rest of society, they are not welcomed and accepted in jobs that carry authority and responsibility. It is rare, indeed, for a white person to have a black boss to whom they are accountable.

Take another example, the television studio. The football commentators and pundits, almost to a man, are white. We watch black players on the pitch then listen to white experts giving the benefit of their views. It is a form of separation: black on the pitch, white in the studio. It is a white man's club.Occasionally there is a black face, a Chris Kamara, Garth Crooks or perhaps Ian Wright. The only notable exception is John Barnes on Channel Five.

From Spain to England, racism remains deeply entrenched in football. Slowly, in some countries at least, it is being made that bit more unacceptable. In Germany, for example, the situation is significantly better than it was in the Nineties, though in the lower divisions racial chanting remains a feature of many games. The gains have been hard-won.
That football is the popular crucible of race means that it reflects the tensions and prejudices in wider society,it has the capacity to exacerbate those tensions or ameliorate them.

While playing against Cremona for Internazionale in 1995, Paul Ince was subjected to taunts of 'nigger, nigger'. After he gave the crowd ironic applause, the referee booked Ince.

Djibril Diawara.
Torino's Senegalese defender Djibril Diawara nose was smashed by an opponent's elbow while playing Bari in 2000. As blood poured from his face, Diawara was confronted by Bari captain Luigi Garzya. Bari coach Eugenio Fascetti shouted: 'The nigger Diawara spat in Garzya's face! And the spit might even be infected! Why don't they just stay home, these niggers?

Patrick Viera.
During Lazio's Champions League game against Arsenal in Rome in 2000, Sinisa Mihajlovic called Patrick Vieira a 'black shit' and received a two-match ban. Racist banners are frequently displayed in the Stadio Olimpico, with no action taken by the authorities.

Treviso fans booed the debut of one of their own players, Oluwasegun Omolade from Nigeria, in 2002. At the next home match, the team took to pitch with black shoe polish smeared over their faces, in what was supposed to be a show of solidarity with Omolade.


During Euro 96 Edgar Davids spoke of racial tension within the Holland camp, claiming that black players were not allowed to attend tactical meetings. He was sent home early.
The problem of racist chanting in Dutch domestic football is so bad that referees have been given the power to abandon matches because of it. The first to do so was Rene Temmink, after repeated anti-semitic chants by Den Haag fans in a game against PSV Eindhoven last October.
Auxerre's Ivory Coast striker Bonaventure Kalou was greeted with the banner 'Kalou is invited to a banana tree' before his side's Uefa Cup match at Ajax in February.

Borussia Dortmund's Julio Cesar threatened to leave the club in 1994 after being refused admission to a local nightclub simply because he is black.
In the same year, Schalke 04 became the first Bundesliga club to include a clause in their constitution stating that 'dishonourable conduct inside and outside the club, in particular the articulation of racist or xenophobic convictions' would result in expulsion.

Kevin Campbell suffered racist taunts from his own chairman while playing for Turkish club Trabzonspor in 1999. Mehmet Ali Yilmaz said in a television interview: 'We bought a cannibal who calls himself a striker. He is coloured. A great disappointment to the club.'


Daryl said...

Come to think of it, i have never seen any black referee on any premiership or European League game. It's sad.

divali said...

hey,just wanted to say this is a very wel thought out right up...this is the stuff...i really enjoyed reading it and it certainly makes one wonder if we should still stay in this country(UK) knowing what we know.. we might be better off at least having a black boss wldnt seem so strange...nice one vera

Vera Ikeji said...

@ Daryl. Me neither.
@Divali.Thank you for appreciating the effort i put in getting the materials for this write up.

racquelle-cutie said...

that is so totally sad when most of the best players in the world are black,look at pele,theirry henry.drogba and ronaldinho

TJ The Actor said...

Well done Vera,
Well package and consice piece. You know some of this -(Piggies-white trash)are demented, ignorant and congenital's just stupidity.....screw dem fucking racists! Am black and beautiful and am PROUD!!!!

The Last King Of Scotland said...

excellent. great work. nice to see another lass appreciating the great game. wonderful piece on rascism in football