Not quite kicked out: racism in English football

Local bellends supporting racism.

The past few months have been difficult for anti-racist football fans in England. As one instance of racism has followed the other, I've been dropping my jaw and grinding my molars so much that my mouth is starting to ache. To try and ease this I thought I'd put down my thoughts on it all.

If, like me, you grew up watching football in the 90s and early 2000s you'd be forgiven for thinking that racism in English football was basically dead. I mean, obviously it still happened from time to time, but it was nowhere near as bad as in the past. I remember going with a friend of my mum's to see Fulham vs. Tottenham and the guy behind me shouting "Get up you foreign bastard!" at a Spurs player, only to get berated by everyone around him. He tried to explain himself but after that just sat in silence for the rest of the game.

However, little over a week apart in October 2011, the Premier League saw two high-profile players in the middle of rows over racism. First, Luis Suarez was accused (and later charged) with racially abusing Patrice Evra. This was followed with the row between John Terry and Anton Ferdinand at QPR's Loftus Road (in case you're interested, Loftus Road was the first football stadium I ever went to, back when Anton's cousin, Les, was playing for them).

With John Terry, this isn't the first time has been surrounded by rumours of racism. In 2006, he was alleged to have called Ledley King a "lippy black monkey". Moreover, Anton's brother, Rio, claimed in his autobiography that there is a racist in the England dressing room. With this, as well as talk of mutiny amongst unnamed England players, in mind Rio's words about the difficulty around the Terry/Ferdinand case seem to say a lot: "If something is going to affect him and hurt him, I am always there as a shoulder to lean on. In moments like this, when things are so public and you can’t really say anything, it can be frustrating."

As could be expected, from the off, Terry was supported by his manager, Andreas Villas-Boas, who said he would support Terry "even if he was found guilty". More recently, following Terry being stripped of the England captaincy by the FA, England manager Fabio Capello said that he "completely disagreed" with the decision.

Similarly, with the Suarez case, an argument was had between two players, during which one racially abused the other. This time the words themselves were never in question, just the context. It was decided that, even if in Uruguay 'negrito' is not always a racist slur, in the context of an argument it is.

However, the worst thing from the Suarez case, and the thing which arguably makes it worse than the Terry/Ferdinand one, has been the reactions from both the club and the fans.

Liverpool's reaction after the Suarez incident was to have the team come out onto the pitch wearing T-shirts with Suarez on the back and his picture on the front. In case the message wasn't clear enough, Kenny Dalglish spelled it out: "We stand right beside him. Always have done and always will do, and that was reflected in the support he got from the stands tonight and the players beforehand."

Yep, even if he racially abuses another player, we'll stand beside him.. coz he's our player.

This was already after Gus Poyet, Brighton manager and friend of Suarez, accused Evra of "crying like a baby" over racism. Over and over, it was repeated: racism isn't that big a deal, get over it.

Once it was taken up by the club, it was only matter of time before the fans joined in. After highlighting the issue on twitter, Stan Collymore was flooded with racist messages both directed at himself and Patrice Evra.

This was then followed by Liverpool fans hurling racial abuse at Oldham defender Tom Adeyemi. An arrest has since been made and Liverpool footbal club were commended for their co-operation but it has to be asked, did Kenny or any of the Liverpool players who took part in that stupid t-shirt stunt think about how their actions might have encouraged it?

Obviously not. Suarez returned from his ban yesterday to a standing-ovation from Liverpool fans and comments Dalglish that "he should ever have been away".

The fact is, when the Liverpool squad came out in those shirts, they created an opening for every racist Liverpool fan to have that conversation in the pub after the game. They created a space where racism 'wasn't that bad, really' and where cheering racism became a demonstration of loyalty to your club.

Football is weird. It's one of the few places where you pick an allegiance and stick to it forever for basically no reason apart from that's who you've picked (maybe because of where you live, your family etc). Every bad decision against you is a severe injustice while every one in your favour is ammunition for pisstaking late into the evening. You hope any small foul on one of your players will get their player sent off and you hope - really hope - that studs up, over-the-ball tackle from your centre back went unnoticed.

This season though, things have gotten bad. It's obvious that when your star striker gets a lengthy ban or your captain gets stripped of the role then you're going to be gutted as your chances of a top four spot or winning the European Championships start looking slim. But, as Blackburn striker Jason Roberts said, "some issues are bigger than football".

This year, my team is currently battling for a Champions League spot (Europa League if I'm being honest). We've taken the heaviest beating I can ever remember taking while Spurs look likely to take our Champions League spot. But more than anything, this has been a good year for racism in English football. And that's probably the worst thing about this season.

Comments

wojtek
Feb 7 2012 15:31

But don't you know, its in Suarez's culture to be racist... roll eyes Purleez, cultural reasons were thrown around a couple of weeks earlier when Antolin Alcaraz (Wigan defender) spat at another player and no one, latics fans included, bought it. If Liverpool fans genuinely think they're victimised as a club, they can get lost!

EDIT: And if it was a second choice left-back and not a star player that was racist, you can bet your bottom dollar that LFC wouldn't have backed him to the hilt. Same goes for Chelsea and John Terry.

Serge Forward
Feb 7 2012 15:41
wojtek wrote:
If Liverpool fans genuinely think they're victimised as a club...

Didn't you know... a victim mentaliity is always essential for supporting Liverpool Mr. T

Ed
Feb 7 2012 17:49

Hmm, Jim, I think you might be a bit biased as you support one of the most racist teams in country! So say, my friend is an Inter Milan fan (whose supporters are historically really racist), but if there was an incident involving racism from AC fans (whose fans traditionally aren't) then it wouldn't make sense for him to say "well I'm glad it's happening as it's opening up space to challenge it" just coz his team is historically racist.. it means the problem's getting worse, no?

Maybe my experience is biased by the fact I've mostly gone to games of teams who don't have that history of racism (at least not so strong/recent).. but seeing the stuff at Liverpool, it looks to me like racism at football grounds is on the rise again and, in these instances especially, the clubs and managers have been culpable in encouraging it (fucking Dalglish especially)..

Refused
Feb 7 2012 18:17
wojtek wrote:
And if it was a second choice left-back and not a star player that was racist, you can bet your bottom dollar that LFC wouldn't have backed him to the hilt. Same goes for Chelsea and John Terry.

I think this is an important point. The reason Liverpool have gone to such absurd lengths to make a martyr out of Suarez and a villain out of Evra (a man who was racially abused in public) is because they're protecting a deal worth £20+ million. That this manifests as an encouragement for a racist backlash dressed as a romantic siege mentality is extremely horrific. And it speaks volumes of the hypocrisy at Liverpool FC that they handed over their own fans to the police for effectively only doing exactly as they've encouraged by their statements and actions: throwing racist taunts at black opposition players. Clearly if you do not have a multi-million pound contract with an even larger investment at stake in a Premier League football club, you do walk alone.
If the official institutions took racism at all seriously the punishment for Suarez and Liverpool FC would be far higher than an 8 match ban and a paltry fine.
And the same applies to John Terry, Andre Villas-Boas and Chelsea FC.

These instances have been in the spotlight because they involve teams who are in the top league of football where the spotlight is already on them all the time. I've seen many reports suggesting that in the lower leagues the situation is far worse and it's extremely difficult for black players to get any help or justice when reporting incidents of racist abuse.

e.g. Richard Offiong took his case to the Welsh FA, but it was dismissed for lack of evidence. Presumably because there were no TV cameras to capture the incident despite there being several witnesses.

http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/editors-choice/2011/12/22/ex-hamilton-star-richard-offiong-rival-asked-me-where-my-bananas-were-but-no-action-was-taken-86908-23653551/

Django
Feb 7 2012 20:11
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
As someone who regularly attends matches the amount of racism that you heard in the stands before these two high-profile incidents was huge. I've regularly heard fans hurling racist abuse at their own players! So I'm kind of glad that these two incidents have happened as more than opening up a space for racism to be pushed they've opened up a space for it to be challenged in more of a collective way, rather than being left to the individuals who confront fans on the terraces.

I find this a bit surprising. I've been watching matches in a northern town known for its racial problems since the early 90s, and just thinking about the last couple of years when I was going to most home matches, I can only remember one instance of a fan racially abusing a player (and it was one of ours). That's not to say my experiences are going to be representative, but friends who support similarly sized clubs have said the same thing. I think both the official and grassroots campaigns have had some effect, which has been at least partly undone by this season's antics.

Are you a Millwall fan or something? wink

Edit - Leeds, well that explains everything

Django
Feb 7 2012 20:19

One thing to say though is that football racism (among fans) may not always be representative of day-to-day racism in the UK. I wonder what it would be like to be a British Muslim premier league footballer. Hellish I imagine. That there aren't have been next to no high-profile British Asian footballers is an indictment in itself.

Wiki on the subject.

wojtek
Feb 7 2012 23:56
Quote:
Django wrote:
That there aren't have been next to no high-profile British Asian footballers is an indictment in itself.

Wiki on the subject.

You could be right. I mean in my experience, first generation immigrants tend to be a lot more strict and pushy in terms of parenting, wanting their sons/ daughters to go into 'respectable' professions, so you'd think by now (third generation immigrants) there'd be a lot more playing in the higher levels.

Btw, the Wikipedia page forgot Harpal Singh formerly of Stockport County who was a beast on Football Manager 2007.

bulmer
Feb 8 2012 11:27
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
Like I know fans get reputations for certain types of behaviour but it's not a particularly good idea to make generalisations - not all Leeds fans are racists.
.

Like me grin

DeathMaskBeak
Feb 8 2012 12:35

I do find it strange that the author has elected to write, here on LibCom of all places, a piece heavily alluding to being a fan of a football monopoly. I wouldn't write a piece here about incidences of racist abuse in supermarkets alluding to my slavish adoration of Waitrose. I'd be laughed out. I guess I'm calling for a politicisation of football consumption, at least amongst the supposedly political.

(Incidentally, in spite of going Millwall maybe five times a season, the last place I heard an outright barrage of racist buse was from Arsenal fans. Though, with the caveat that it was back in 1995 or 96.)

Steven.
Feb 8 2012 12:47
DeathMaskBeak wrote:
I do find it strange that the author has elected to write, here on LibCom of all places, a piece heavily alluding to being a fan of a football monopoly. I wouldn't write a piece here about incidences of racist abuse in supermarkets alluding to my slavish adoration of Waitrose. I'd be laughed out. I guess I'm calling for a politicisation of football consumption, at least amongst the supposedly political.

I think I read an article once, possibly by Chomsky, where he says that supermarkets and football teams are different.

DeathMaskBeak
Feb 8 2012 12:50
Steven. wrote:
I think I read an article once, possibly by Chomsky, where he says that supermarkets and football teams are different.

But are they?

Arbeiten
Feb 8 2012 12:51
DeathMaskBeak wrote:
Steven. wrote:
I think I read an article once, possibly by Chomsky, where he says that supermarkets and football teams are different.

But are they?

Nope, there is loads of seats in a supermarket where thousands of people watch 22 other people shop. True story

Ed
Feb 8 2012 12:59

That bellend Suarez talking more shite:

Suarez wrote:
"I knew what I did and there is a kind of football law that says: 'What happens on the pitch, stays on the pitch and that's the end of the story.'"

So basically, rather than him doing something bad by racially abusing someone, Evra is the bad guy coz he broke some kind of mystic football law.. what a twat! roll eyes

Refused wrote:
The reason Liverpool have gone to such absurd lengths to make a martyr out of Suarez and a villain out of Evra (a man who was racially abused in public) is because they're protecting a deal worth £20+ million.

I think this is basically the key here.. because the clubs themselves are multi-million pound businesses these defences are basically just asset protection. They're looking after their stars because they want them to stay, play games and hopefully get them into lucrative European competitions, cup finals etc.

So Dalglish and AVB protect their players at all costs and it even makes Ferguson's calls to clamp down on racism a bit empty? Would he do the same if it was one of his players up on racism charges?

Refused wrote:
And it speaks volumes of the hypocrisy at Liverpool FC that they handed over their own fans to the police for effectively only doing exactly as they've encouraged by their statements and actions: throwing racist taunts at black opposition players. Clearly if you do not have a multi-million pound contract with an even larger investment at stake in a Premier League football club, you do walk alone.

Nothing really to add to this but just wanted to copy it again in case anyone missed it. Absolutely spot on.

Ed
Feb 8 2012 13:03

Ooh, missed DeathMaskBeak's post.. I see what you mean (hence my post above about clubs being "multi-million pound business") but I think if you equate football with the clubs and no more then you're really missing out a lot of what football is about..

wojtek
Feb 8 2012 14:36
Quote:
DeathMaskBeak wrote:
I do find it strange that the author has elected to write, here on LibCom of all places, a piece heavily alluding to being a fan of a football monopoly. I wouldn't write a piece here about incidences of racist abuse in supermarkets alluding to my slavish adoration of Waitrose. I'd be laughed out. I guess I'm calling for a politicisation of football consumption, at least amongst the supposedly political.

Yeah, let's all leave our bourgeous teams behind and don St. Pauli scarfs... Or why not go further and denounce football itself as counter-revolutionary because it encourages competition... roll eyes Seriously, this 'ethical' consumption/ lifestylism stuff is crazy. Me going to watch Chorley FC instead of Wigan Athletic is not a political act!!

FYI, we're not football consumers, we're supporters who stick with our clubs through thick and thin. Yes, I'm looking at you Serge Forward! tongue

LBird
Feb 8 2012 15:55
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
Have Liverpool always been known as an anti-racist side?

The simple answer to this, and going back for decades, is 'Yes!'

That's not to say there aren't some dickheads influenced by racist ideas from wider society, but they always get shouted down or, if need be, threatened physically.

Let's face it, Liverpool are the most cosmopolitan supporters in the country, dating back to our regular, yearly mass trips to Europe in the 70s and 80s.

Plus, as I explained to some Aussies in Athens in 2007, Liverpool isn't even in England. Well, not mentally or linguistically, anyway. We're a world seaport, populated by mongrels. Even our riots are multi-racial.

Malva
Feb 8 2012 16:05

Abolish football! Long live actually kicking a ball for fun!

Serge Forward
Feb 8 2012 17:39

DeathMaskBeak clearly knows nowt about football. For the record, anyone who thinks football is all about football really knows nothing about football. Anyone who thinks football is the same as a supermarket knows less than nothing about football... or supermarkets... or our class. Supermarkets were never connected to working class culture, football was always connected and remains inextricably linked. Even the decline or loss of that culture (no standing, commercialisation, the PL and overpaid prima donas) is important and the ongoing fight to reclaim it from these fucking twats (spearheaded by FCUM) is even more important.

Oi Malva, while it contains some moments of absolute joy, football is mainly chock full of heartache and misery... it is never 'fun' wall

Wojtek, on the subject of heartache and misery... watching Chorley? Should be a law against it... oh wait embarrassed

Arbeiten
Feb 8 2012 18:07

I think Malva is really ex-SWP member Chris Bambery in disguise black bloc .

Did you write this article Malva?

Malva
Feb 8 2012 18:19

@Arbeiten Vile calumny

baboon
Feb 8 2012 21:52

When this scandal first broke, Jef Costello (God bless him) said on libcommunity that it wasn't important. It's not the most burning issue of the day but I think that it's of some importance to the working class; the question of racism in football has a particular relevence for it. There's no doubt that it's better at the top but, as someone says above, problems remain at the base - really showing the endemic nature of racism in bourgeois society. The management of Liverpool have used the solidarity of the team and the supporters - not naturally racist - to cover up the abuse of Evra and arouse base feelings. Even the BBC journalists were calling it "alleged racism" after Suarez was clinically condemned. The Liverpool management had a chance to accept the facts, hold their hands up and move on, but they didn't. It's a long way from Micheal Barrymore on TV blacked up (or rather wiped with a black cloth) in a football strip, bouncing a ball, supposedly John Barnes and being "interviewed" (it was painful) by Wilson the Arsenal keeper. It's a long way but it still exists and it can be used.

As an Arsenal supporter I was pleased a while ago to see so many black faces in the crowd and black players on the pitch. Now we all suffer together.

Caiman del Barrio
Feb 9 2012 14:40

And now Capello's resigned, ostensibly due to his objections to being overruled by the FA, but he's definitely standing by JT...

Red Marriott
Feb 9 2012 17:42
Serge wrote:
Supermarkets were never connected to working class culture

Well, arguably the Co-Op was originally wink ; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_cooperative_movement

CdelB wrote:
he's definitely standing by JT...

Perhaps that's not surprising;

Quote:
He told Italian newspaper La Republica: "In Madrid I breathed a sparkling atmosphere, the air of a country in Europe making the greatest progress. When I returned to Italy it seemed I had taken two steps back.
"Spain in two words? Latin warmth and creativity regulated by a rigorous order. The order which comes from Franco."
When reminded that Franco was a dictator, Capello replied: "But he left a legacy of order. In Spain everything works well, there is education, cleanliness, respect. We should follow their example."
[...]
But Capello has also admitted to veering to the far right in his voting in Italy.
He began to follow politics in 1968 and after starting off voting for the Italian socialist party, he drifted further to the right, eventually switching to extreme right parties Lega Nord and Forza Italia.
Anti-racism groups have accused Lega Nord of "openly embracing racist and fascist" attitudes.
Capello has also made no secret of his strong nationalist beliefs.
When he scored for Italy at Wembley in 1973, he dedicated it to Italian immigrants he said were treated like "waiters" by the British.
Capello, ... is also a devout Catholic. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/england-target-is-fan-of-fascist-527662
Serge Forward
Feb 9 2012 18:01
Red Marriott wrote:
Serge wrote:
Supermarkets were never connected to working class culture

Well, arguably the Co-Op was originally

Shit, you made me feel bad for shoplifting from there now... ah fuck it... who needs hip capitalism anyway?

Dannny
Feb 9 2012 22:10
LBird wrote:
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
Have Liverpool always been known as an anti-racist side?

The simple answer to this, and going back for decades, is 'Yes!'

That's not to say there aren't some dickheads influenced by racist ideas from wider society, but they always get shouted down or, if need be, threatened physically.

Let's face it, Liverpool are the most cosmopolitan supporters in the country, dating back to our regular, yearly mass trips to Europe in the 70s and 80s.

Plus, as I explained to some Aussies in Athens in 2007, Liverpool isn't even in England. Well, not mentally or linguistically, anyway. We're a world seaport, populated by mongrels. Even our riots are multi-racial.

Sorry mate but this isn't the case at all (apart from the riots bit), and smacks of Scouse patriotism.
When you say decades you mean "since we bought John Barnes". As you know the hundreds of Evertonians who threw bananas at him were also denizens of our wonderful mongrel Atlantic city. Incidentally, "mongrels" was used as a denigratory nickname for the blues among some reds for a while. Never understood what it was about.

There has been a certain, for want of better words, Left cultural hegemony at Anfield for a while. At times it has been really exciting - I was in the Kop for the famous "truth" protest in the cup for example. But the recent events have shown how fragile this is, and how the hive-mind mentality of football fans obscures critical thinking. Even the Red All Over the Land fanzine is "standing by" Suarez. Clutching at straws, it is at least better I suppose to insist on his innocence rather than embrace his guilt like some Chelsea fans have done with Terry. But it is still sad that so many people hate Manchester United more than they hate racism, and that what amounts to little more than support for a company protecting a prize asset can be bought with such piss weak appeals to solidarity as we've heard from the likes of Dalglish recently. I don't live in Liverpool any more but this was the first time in ages I turned down a ticket over Christmas, the whole thing's been a depressing embarassment.

Ed
Feb 11 2012 19:03

Luis Suarez not shaking Patrice Evra's hand.. what a cunt, anyone would've thought Evra was the one who'd racially abused him!

Ernestine
Feb 11 2012 23:05

Never mind the sexism.

Serge Forward
Feb 12 2012 00:51

Meanwhile, thousands of the United fanzine Red Issue were seized by the dibble, with anyone selling it threatened with arrest and people ejected from OT for possessing a copy... on account of its satirical cover being possibly offensive:

Edit: cover viewable HERE as the pic won't embed.

That fanzine is anti-racist and generally leftish. Anyway, I wonder if copies of Private Eye will also be seized and WH Smith managers threatened with arrest?

plasmatelly
Feb 11 2012 23:50

Jesus fucking christ! Supporting football teams is nothing more than that. Superimposing politics to give it a life that it doesn't have is more than I thought some of you posters would slump to. I fucking hate football, not for what it is - i love playing it - but for the crackpipe dreams that people bestow on something that is essentially marbles played by foot by a band of knackers who hate us.

Ernestine
Feb 12 2012 00:16

I take it you're not exactly Maradona then?