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Kick Racism out of Football

October 22, 2009

My post yesterday
on the alleged racist abuse that Rangers’ star Maurice Edu received from his own fans got me thinking – Can these incidents ever be stopped?

Your average African/Asian/Caribbean Footballer won’t be adverse to remarks made about their race or ethnic background, and that’s a horrible truth to admit. I’ll give you a few shocking examples of incidents whereby players have received racist abuse from fans, opposition players, and even the board members of their own clubs.

1) Now-AC Milan central defender Oguchi Onyewu, who’s an American of Nigerian descent, has been punched and shouted at by fans of Standard Liege, whom he played for before joining the Italian giants.

Also, during the 2008-09 Championship playoff, Anderlecht defender Jelle van Damme repeatedly called Onyewu a “dirty ape”. After the match van Damme denied it and claimed that Onyewu had called him a “dirty flemish”. Two weeks after the incident it was announced by Onyewu’s lawyer that he would attempt to sue van Damme in a bid to end on-field racism in European Football.

2) Republic of Congo International Zola Matumona left FC Brussels last year after he accused Club Chairman Johan Vermeersch of making racist remarks towards him during a crisis meeting at the club. It is reported that he told Matumona to “think about other things than trees and bananas”.

3) During a Spanish training session in 2004, the Spanish media filmed coach Luis Aragones trying to motivate Jose Antonio Reyes by making racist remarks about his then-teammate at Arsenal Thierry Henry. The phrase used translates into English as “show that you’re better than that black s***”. Unsurprisingly the incident caused uproar back in England with widespread calls for Aragones to be sacked and severely punished. However, the Spanish FA declined to act against Aragones and politicians were slow to denounce the remarks.

England visited Spain a short while after to contest a friendly match at Santiago Bernabeu, home of Real Madrid. The atmosphere was extremely hostile, and throughout England’s singing of the national anthem, Spanish fans racially chanted towards the England team. Shaun Wright-Phillips and Ashley Cole were the unfortunate victims of the chanting.

Aragones’ comments were much blamed for inciting the incident, and even Tony Blair, the Prime Minister at the time, got involved. However, Aragones somehow won his appeal over the offence, with the misdemeanour being downgraded to “conduct which could be considered to be racist”.

So these are the kind of incidents that need to be kicked out of Football. But how?

Placing lifetime bans on the cretins that do these things is a start. Hefty fines is another way. Even prison sentences if you want to go to the absolute extreme. But I’m just questioning whether this will really diminish racism and whether the endless ‘give racism the red card’ campaigns are just a waste of time.

The reason people give racist abuse is because they’re ignorant, primarily. They’re ignorant people who don’t know a thing about social or moral etiquette, whether Football-related or not. Spain and Latin America are renowned for being primary culprits of distributing racial abuse, so that’s got to tell you something about what they’re taught, and the behaviour they learn. Are they not being told that racism is a bad thing? Isn’t it time they were?

In this country and the rest of the UK racist abuse is still evident. We know that from the Maurice Edu incident. But it’s definitely not on as big a scale as it is in Europe. So this perhaps suggests that the campaigns do in fact work, and that people are taking note. They also know that big punishments will come their way if they’re caught, something that the Spanish for example know they’ll escape because the Spanish FA and government are far too lenient and probably just as bad.

This probably suggests then, that similar regimes and schemes should be introduced into the European and World game. There are a few, like “Football united against Racism”, but no where near as many and certainly not as passionately put in place as in the UK.

So for me, it is about campaigning. At a glance you would say propaganda doesn’t work due to the lingering cloud of racism over Football still, but on closer inspection the situation in the English game is greatly improved thanks to such schemes as the “stand up, speak up” scheme pictured at the top of this post. Fine tuning, and introduction of more regimes in Europe is now what is required.

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22 Comments leave one →
  1. October 22, 2009 1:13 pm

    Blaming Spain, Italy and the latin culture is the easy thing – that won’t ever help us from kicking racism out of football, but it would help to transfer the problem to another ones.

    But wait, is Aragonés the only man who was racist in a football pitch? (Di Canio, Materazzi, Lazio fans who didn’t want any black players in their squad till some years ago, etc.) Come on…

    Those who don’t know anything about football could believe that we’re the worst and most “outdated” culture in the Earth, but all of us who know (at least a little) about football remember things that happened in Germany or England – like Assamoah’s case, who was threaten with death by some Germany’s National Team supporters of renowned Nazi tendencies and ideologies. Or like Sol Campbell’s case with Tottenham Hotspur’s fans – actually, everything that happens with Spurs’ fans involves racism because they’re one of the most racist and xenophobic “hinchadas” in the world.

    I think if we compare both situations (Latin culture with Anglo-Saxon one) results would be pretty similar – of course England and USA are towards us in the fight against racism, because they’ve been receiving immigrants for many many years and “we’ve just started” like 15 years ago. Anyway, I think there are stupid people everywhere, and those who want to come in the act by swearing against a black, yellow, red or purple guy shouldn’t be punished but IGNORED – we should make them realize they’re out of this society. No matter if they made that “uuhhh uhhhh uhhhh monkey sound” or if they filled up Woodison Park with bananas.

    So, before fighting against racism we must decide if we really want to end with it or if we want to USE IT to blame other countries in order to put them in a worst sittuation than ours. I’d go for the first option, of course.

    • October 22, 2009 5:42 pm

      Diego, racism can never be ignored as you put it. We mustn’t give the racists credence but we live in a free world so if a white man wants to hate a black man or vice versa purely on their skin colour then that is their choice. However they do not have the right to vocalise that choice as it is illegal. That is the point. The monkey noises are the epitome of ignorance. Every time that happens it should be an immediate life ban from football. Zero tolerance.

      Society will always divide itself, whether it be about politics, race, or religion. However, to allow racism to happen with no punishment is why people turn the other cheek and allow problems to manifest.

      What did you think of Aragones when he made the Henry racist remarks? He should have been sacked immediately

      • October 22, 2009 10:18 pm

        I agree with all things you pointed at in your first 2 paragraphs (mainly because it’s very very similar to what I wrote).

        When Aragonés made the Henry racist remarks, I thought he had a big mistake. Yes, I also thought he should have been sacked immediately.

        Anyway, he didn’t want to discriminate against Thierry – I know it sounds silly, but a native Spanish speaker would understand it easily. A translation is not valid in this case (hardly ever is) – the difference between cultures is bigger than the difference between languages.

        When you say “negro de mierda” (negro=black, de=of, mierda=shit) you’re insulting HIM because of what he is or what he do (not because of his skin colour) and you’re picking the word black to differ him from another one who is not black, to make the other one realize who you’re talking about.

        I know it sounds like an excuse for those who doesn’t speak Spanish. He should have been sacked anyway.

      • October 22, 2009 10:24 pm

        *what he does

  2. October 22, 2009 2:17 pm

    Good article, George. Thought provoking and bringing attention to an issue that should have been eradicated eons ago.

    We all know the answer is for me and Ryan Giggs to plan “Give Racism the red card” events together.

    Sadly, I believe that ugly people will always exist. Severe sanctions is probably the best route. You may not be able to change ignorant minds, but you can scare them into keeping their asinine thoughts to themselves at least.

  3. maserati4200 permalink
    October 22, 2009 2:50 pm

    There has to be direct action. Ban these morons for life from any event that they exhibit their vile prejudices. Deny them a platform and, as the slogan goes, Kick them Out.

  4. October 22, 2009 8:59 pm

    Fantastic article, well worded and thought provoking, one of the best here in recent weeks.
    For years and years non caucasian football players have thrilled and entertained genuine fans throughout the world, more often than not at at the highest level.

    The cretins who make their lack of intellect visible for all to hear by racially abusing coloured players should be asked a simple question; “Without the contribution of the non-white squad members, where would your team be? no, don’t bothering answering, instead just tell me why you think it’s appropriate, when the opposition field black lads, to hurl bananas or impersonate an ape you dumb ****!!!!” Nauseating hypocrisy.

    Clubs, wherever they are, need to take ownership of the problem individually and match day stewards, often in the front line, should be given the power to eject the retards, via a fat lip at the back of the stand.

    Diego, were you aware that Tottenham fans have a huge number of Jewish origin fans? themselves an object of ridicule and creativity amongst the songwriters of numerous English Premiership fans. The Sol Campbell thing is as much to do with “The Arse” as his skin pigment. Maybe Pat Jennings and Willie Young in years gone by had the same kind of abuse, the only difference being they weren’t of Jamaican parents. Luis Aragones, whatever his perceived talents, should have had his career curtailed, just like former television pundit Ron Atkinson.

    • October 22, 2009 10:23 pm

      Yes Kevin, I was aware that most Tottenham fans are of Jewish origins. And what? Racism is everywhere. Take a look at the Israel-Palestine issue: Jewish people discriminating against Arabic people. So it doesn’t matter where the hell they come from or what they are. We all know (you -English football fans- much better than me) that all Spurs supporters are RACISTS.

      • October 23, 2009 10:10 am

        Diego, I think without meaning to I seem to have touched a nerve, I hope not.
        My point with the Judaism thing was, that Spurs as a club are much more victims than perpetrators. Everton, if memory serves, had a dubious record with race issues, considerably worse than Tottenham.

        I’m not in any way singling out Spain, my adopted country has given me an amazing lifestyle and some fantastic experiences, but, the Luis Aragones incident sent the wrong message. He was filmed uttering a deeply offensive remark, kept his job and it was the Spanish Federation who settled the fine. It’s difficult to imagine the English FA behaving in a similar fashion.

  5. Desmond permalink
    October 23, 2009 12:12 am

    Racism can never be kicked out of football or in fact anything. A person’s race has for ages ‘ define’ his ability in everything and anything thats why we stereotype footballers by their race and their league. The thing about kicking racism out of football is actually constraining those thoughts from being publicized, as mentioned above by some.

    We are all racists. Fact. Even a simple thing like sacking rafa, u see people saying, kick the fat Spanish waiter our, or people knocking off Sir Alex as the old drunk Scot, its racism at its simplest form, throwing in the person’s race with an insult. So my rambling aside, heres my take on what should be done?

    IMO, Best way to shut the mouths of those dumb nuts who seek to incite race hatred? A hefty fine and some lengthy community service for the particular race they insulted, making them civil to the race they dislike is the best way to cultivate respect LOL.

  6. October 23, 2009 9:21 am

    hmmm… there is a thin line between calling someone a fat Spanish waiter, old Scot drunk and then calling them a name/word which incites racial hatred. Personally, as a person that experienced some casual racism as a kid in the 80s, i can identify where this line is but im not so sure that Joe Public always can. Calling someone about their nationality is not wrong and is not racist. If someone was to call me a stupid Indian bastard i would not be offended (even though i have no links to India except the tone of my skin) I understand how someone makes the link. However if someone called be a Paki..which is a derogatory term and not an abbreviation i would take offence..and that is where the thin line exists. I have no problem if someone says someone is Black..or like myself Brown..i dont see that a racism…but using the N or P word is unacceptable and deliberately cruel.

    We are NOT all racist as Desmond puts it. Sweeping generalisations only cloud real issues. And it is used to justify that society will always be like this and that we will all always have prejudices so lets just get on with it. Bullcrap. Race toleration should be addressed in fact it is here. It makes me laugh when i hear parents get annoyed that their kids got taught about a Muslim festival or the like cos ‘we’re a Christian nation’..despite the fact none of them have stepped into a church in years…its about teaching kids about other worlds so they do not have inherent racism drilled into them by the few.

    All in all, England is a very tolerant society. I live in a villiage in the countryside that is 99% white and aging, and all of these people welcomed my family into the community when we moved here. They dont have race issues..its not on their agenda. Its even less previlent in the cities. There will always be a race card to face as long as we have multi-culturalism, but its about knowing where the line is and being comfortable with it.

    And Diego..i personally dont think that all Spaniards/Italians are racist..far far from it. But the latin nations need to make themselves be heard loud and clear on the issue..the Aragones issue sent out the signal that as a nation Spain doesnt think much about it, as did the issue with the racial prejudices that our Black Internationals face in your stadiums, or the filth that was directed at Lewis Hamilton by a few ‘blacked up’ idiots.

    • October 23, 2009 12:35 pm

      My country has a black President. We win.

      Joking. But actually, I don’t hear about much racial hatred within the MLS and that may be because racial diversity was already so great in other more popular American sports.

      Our embarrassing racial issue comes to the forefront when the US plays Mexico. It’s a long-standing rivalry so things get ugly, but it’s in this tie that stories emerge about ugliness coming from both sides.

      @Desmond, agreed that everyone sees race, identifies by race, so in that respect, I guess we’re “racist” but the difference, of course, is what feelings recognizing race invokes. And if seeing a black football star of the Glasgow Rangers getting in to his car after the match inexplicably causes a person to feel the need to spew some horrendous remark, then banned for life from the ground seems fair. I love the idea about community service towards the offended group. How could anyone say anti-Semitic statements after spending a few days with Holocaust survivors?

  7. October 23, 2009 7:19 pm

    Unfortunately I think racism is here to stay. The problem lies at the way the world is educated about other races and to change this, is to change the very way we identify ourselves i.e. how we are different from one another.

    Big problem not just in football, and a task I think not even Obama can handle on a worldwide scale.

  8. Baggy permalink
    October 24, 2009 8:02 pm

    @Rob Blanchette
    I think you hit the nail on the head succinctly when you said ‘i can identify where this line is but im not so sure that Joe Public always can’. And this can only be addressed through education.
    I was lucky enough to grow up in a 70s/80s London society that was genuinely multicultural and all the sons of immigrants from the British colonies in African, Caribbean, Indian subcontinent, Pakistan etc where learned about each others cultures and of course there were tensions/issues etc but most of all we understood where that line is. So as you say if someone calls me a “jungle bunny” or “coon” I take it as an insult that it has always been intend, but anything else washes over me as my parents faced far worse when they arrived. Simply put it was wrong then, is wrong now and will forever be wrong regardless of who is insulting who.
    Now I live in a Switzerland a country which has had no immigration but has a highly educated well travelled population who seem to understand that line generally though have no mass experience of immigration.
    Diego: therefore the point about the reaction of countries like Spain to racist incidents like Aragones is that these are high profile adverts for the values the country adheres to. And as the international matches and Lewis Hamilton case have show the advert paints a picture of the society that is painfully stuck in the last century. Fortunately I have Spanish, Italian friends and work colleagues so do not take these examples for general for an entire nation. But it is so easy for people to do so and many will do.
    Also as far as Spurs fans go, I really don’t know where you get your information from to say “all Spurs supporters are RACISTS”. I am a lifelong Spurs fan as is all my family and have been to White Hart Lane regularly over the years. The club is located in a multicultural area of London with large Jewish, African, Caribbean and Asian populations from which is draws its supports. As with many football clubs the naming betrays the history and Spurs fans, non-Jewish, will refer to themselves as Yid Army. So it can be confusing and apparently racist to outsiders and is a easy target for terrible abuse from opposing fans. It’s difficult to explain but your statement is totally wrong my friend.
    Kevin Rendal: your totally right on the Campbell front, I in no way defend the cretins who abuse him racially, but most of the abuse to my mind (certainly from my family!) is due to his blatant betrayal and lies to the club that nurtured him, made him captain and an England regular. Other chants about him stem from that feeling that, “we loved you, and now we hate” that often comes into football fans emotions with players. Silly I agree.

    On the general point, I think as the world’s game football has to continue to lead the way campaigning against racism to set an example to the young people who idolise the game and its players.

    • October 24, 2009 9:34 pm

      Many thanks Baggy. I agree with all of what you say.

      I must admit i have no idea where the thought that Spurs fans are racist comes from. In fact i dont think any English club has any racist elements..yes Millwall and Chelsea were entangled with some of the far right in the 80s, but not really in todays day and age.

      I know many Spurs fans and none of them are Jewish or racist. The only two clubs that truly have any political or religious afiliations on the UK are Celtic and Rangers, and even that is not anywhere as extreme as in the 1970s.

  9. Baggy permalink
    October 24, 2009 10:42 pm

    @ Rob Blanchette:I’ve no idea where the thought that Spurs fans are racist comes from either. It’s an example of how even intelligent folk can take misinformation for fact. One visit to White Hart Lane on Saturday would disabuse anyone of this strange statement.
    Generally I agree English football has made great strides in removing the hard core racist elements from most match days or at least quietening their voice. But let’s face it it is in society so it’s certainly still there at football. The West Ham v Millwall shows what happens when the hard core come out to play, albeit they’re old and fat now!
    That said, when I was growing up I and my mates were more than happy to go to a match because we were fearless and could handle ourselves if need be. However most minorities would not be seen anywhere near a football match for as they did not feel welcome. I fear that situation is similar to that in some places in Spain, Italy and other European countries in East Europe. I’ve only ever been to a match in Brazil so can’t comment on latin American countries.

  10. October 26, 2009 5:25 pm

    Ew. I google image searched Jelle van Damme. He’s probably just jealous because Gooch is super hot.
    Let’s see:

    I rest my case.
    And hellllllo, Onyewu.

    • Shallowgirl permalink
      October 28, 2009 10:01 am

      Gooch: Cor lummy!

  11. Baggy permalink
    October 26, 2009 8:31 pm

    @Katie: Is Jelle the guy who called Gooch some racist names?? Yeah I was at Confederations Cup and not often I meet a fella whose same size as me in football and plays the same position. I think all the women will agree with you on the hot or not vote between the Jelle & Gooch…LOL

    • October 26, 2009 10:08 pm

      Yes. I buy Gooch’s story. I just had to google “Flemish.” I don’t think most Americans have even heard the word, let alone would hurl it as a racial insult.

      From that photo, Jelle is damn lucky Gooch has patience; he’d be a man unable to walk.

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  1. Kick Racism out of Football | The Gers Info

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