The Last year and a half have seen racism come to the forefront of many a football discussion, but where has it come from?
Back in the 70’s and 80’s, racism was as common in football as fried chicken is in KFC. It came with the territory. Wonderfully talented players like John Barnes and Viv Anderson, the first black man to play for England were regularly subjected to racist chants. As an 18 year Anderson was preparing to come on as a substitute for Nottingham 35 years ago, supporters pelted him with fruit and so he retreated to bench to tell his manager, legendary coach Brian Clough what had taken place.
“Get your f****** arse back out there then and fetch me two pears and a banana!” was the response. So common was racism, it was deemed unworthy of conversation let alone investigation as Herman Ouseley discovered in 1984. Now a Politician, Mr Ouseley was then the head of the ethnic minorities group at Greater London Council. Upon witnessing the continuous racial abuse directed at Paul Conoville (the first black man to play for chelsea by his own fans), he decided to take up the issue with Ken Bates; the then chelsea chairman. It was a very short meeting.
“I said, ‘We need to look at what we can do to tackle this problem properly’. ‘He said they didn’t have a problem, and that the security people will see me off the site. And some big goons in their anoraks saw me off the premises‘.”Mr Ouseley recalls.
Racism in football was just a mirror of british society back then. Popular TV Shows such as “Love Thy Neighbour” saw black people referred to as “Nig-Nogs” and “Sambo” regularly and that show itself was wildly popular during it’s run.
Now,hop into your Delorean and fast forward thirty years to present time; racism is not just worth talking about, it’s also punishable.
Cue the John Terry and Anton Ferdinand saga, which has seen the Chelsea captain retire from International football,banned for four games and fined £220,000 (not much for him but we’ll get to that). Then there was South American Luis Suarez who received an 8 match ban last season for calling Patrice Evra”negrito” literally meaning “little black man” even after linguists explained that in his culture, it’s not considered a racial slur.
Earlier this year, Police visited two teenagers who made racist remarks referring Ashley Young and Ashley Cole, two Black England International who missed the penalties which led to England being eliminated from Euro 2012.
A few weeks ago Under 21 England International Danny Rose was subjected to monkey chants from Serbian fans while on international duty leading to loud calls for the Serbian team to be banned as a result. Even David Cameron jumped in for some brownie points; calling for “tough sanctions” to be imposed as punishment.
Expectations, especially among Black players has changed as well. A number of black players including Rio Ferdinand and Jason Roberts last week refused to wear Anti-Racism T-shirts as asked to by the English Football Association.
According to former footballer and friend of the Ferdinand brothers Shaka Hislop, these players have been angered by the FA’s “soft” treatment of John Terry and are now considering starting a breakaway anti-racism movement; the Federation of Black players.
It seems as though, the relatively light punishment inflicted on John Terry has awoken these players to the fact that racism in football is a reflection of racism in society, just as it was 30 years ago.
In our modern, politically correct society, open racism is no longer acceptable but racism itself is alive and well.
For example shopkeepers no longer have the “No Blacks,No Dogs, No Irish” signs that once had decades ago, but as a black person I’m often followed by security guards who seem certain that I’m about to steal.
Black people and other ethnic minorities are now “equal” members of society but statistics on employment, sentencing and stop searching among show clear racial discrimination is present.
In the same way, John Terry had to reprimanded to some degree but his “soft” punishment has shown that racism still isn’t viewed as a truly severe offence. It’s a timely reminder to the footballing world and society in general of one fact which many refuse to acknowledge, racism is far from being eradicated.