Racism in Football. The Facts Some Fans want to Ignore
Football hasn't been out of the news over the last week or two, and not for the right reasons.
On Saturday 5th December, Millwall fans booed when players took the knee in support of the Black Lives Matters movement. Despite the club and players speaking out after the match that this was, of course, an absolute disgrace, Conservative Cabinet Minister, Environment Secretary George Eustice, branded Black Lives Matter a 'political movement,' that doesn't reflect 'what most of us believe.' At what seemed like the perfect opportunity to condemn such behaviour, Eustice sided with the intolerant few that seemingly hate to mix football and politics.
When fans should have been showing their solidarity, they showed their ignorance.
What followed continued to highlight the bigoted views of many. On the 8th December, in a Champions League football match between Paris St-Germain and Istanbul Basaksehir, the fourth official, Sebastian Coltescu, who stands at the side of the pitch next to the team benches, allegedly used racially offensive language towards their assistant coach Pierre Webo. In a video that's been watched 1.4 million times, we see Demba Ba approach the fourth official and accuse him of referring to him as, simply, 'That black guy'. Now, in a sign of unity, both teams walked off the pitch and the match was postponed. But rather than the football community coming together and showing their solidarity, this gave the white right an open forum to show their displeasure. A quick scan of the YouTube comments or a scroll through Twitter will show how affronted many football fans were that their entertainment was not prioritised over racial equality. When fans should have been showing their solidarity, they showed their ignorance.
As if to illustrate just how belligerently stubborn and immovable the views of the white right remain, last weekend more booing was heard as players took the knee in the match held between Cambridge and Colchester. Meanwhile Exeter ejected a spectator from their ground after booing was heard when players took a knee before their 2-1 loss to Harrogate. The teams, the clubs, the managers, all spoke out against this behaviour but it is the individual fans who do not seem to backing down. As if it is their right to display their displeasure. As a few social media commentators have pointed out, they don't seem have an issue with the political statement of a poppy being worn, but when the political statement is about racial equality, the line, for some reason, becomes crossed.
If some people are reading this, thinking that these incidents are isolated or that the media are clinging on to any story about race in the hope to stoke tensions, I invite you to read a report by Kick It Out, a charity that aims to tackle racism and discrimination, who release a yearly report on the current environment within the footballing community.
53% rise in reported racial abuse last season
They report that there was a 53% rise in reported racial abuse last season and that 30% of fans witnessed racist comments or chants, again in last season alone. Furthermore, a staggering 71% of those questioned also said they had witnessed racist comments on social media directed at a footballer. 51% of fans had also witnessed racism directed at a fan of a different team to theirs on social media. Finally, and possibly the most shocking, was that of the 1000 fans surveyed around half of those questioned also said it was unlikely they’d report racist or homophobic abuse directed at players, coaches or match officials at a football game.
It seems like the so called "British Value" of mutual respect is not given the same amount of importance as individual liberty. That, for some, the libertarian right to free speech is upheld as a British necessity, whilst the right for safety from abuse is ignored, is an embarrassing, shameful indictment of our society. Since the Conservative lead coalition in 2010, the government and the media have peppered our subconsciouses with anti-immigration rhetoric and our attitudes and education towards other races have evidently become worse. The rise in nationalism, encouraged by lies communicated effectively by the Brexit campaign, as well as the rise in power by an intolerant, morally-corrupt, selfish government, willing to consider the Windrush Generation as illegal immigrants, we now find ourselves, in 2020, being even more ignorant.
This has got to stop. We have to report racist behaviour, in and out of football. We have to educate ourselves. We have to at least try to make our short existence on this planet a compassionate one.
One final demonstration of just how dire the situation is in British football is the case of Marcus Rashford. In August 2019 he missed a penalty against Crystal Palace and online abuse went up by 3000% on that day. Since then he has become subject to abuse since his successful campaign to reverse a government policy to cancel free school meals. He continues to be outspoken on many issues surrounding education and health and yet, while his motives seem sincere, the same insecure idiots, who seem to feel threatened by a black person with a voice, shout about his lack of attention given to his football, as if his demands for justice and equality are not as important as how many goals he scores.
Some people just do not want football and politics to mix. Perhaps it's because they don't want their uninformed views on political matters to be exposed.