English football was deeply racist 25 years ago. I not talking about the solo loon throwing a banana onto the pitch. I’m talking about mass racism, in which a majority, or at least a significant minority of the crowd are involved. 
 
For instance, my team Spurs adapted an old British Airways ad. “Who’s that up a tree?” we sang. To which the answer was “Raphael Meade, Raphael Meade”. Raphael, by the way, was a home-grown striker whose name happened to scan. The song was sung with gusto by what sounded like the whole ground.  He played in the Arsenal first team between 81 and 83. And he was black.
 
Twenty years later I was leaving Highbury’s Clock End with around 3000 other visiting supporters at the end of a derby match (which Spurs had lost to a late penalty) when a man leaned from a window high above us in the neighbouring stand. He shouted down at us, jeering. An insult was hurled back - “Shut it, you goofy fucker!” someone shouted. The jeering man above us had big teeth. He was also black. 
 
My point is that in 20 years everything had changed. I am not suggesting that no racists attended football matches. Far from it. The English Defence League is still largely manned by members of football firms from up and down the UK desperate to find an outlet for their views, partly because they no longer have an audience that would tolerate their views at regular club matches. Racism hasn’t been eradicated, but it has been suppressed. 
 
What’s ironic is that football and the rise of black heroes aided the fight against racism in wider society. For instance, any vaguely racist Spurs fan must have seen the irony in hating blacks while idolising (pre-transfer) Sol Campbell and Ledley King. This scenario happened across the land and it changed people’s views.
 
In October last year, John Terry, captain of England, while playing for Chelsea called Anton Ferdinand of QPR a black cunt. In the same month Luis Suarez of Liverpool racially abused Patrice Evra of Man Utd and the game changed again. Now, in 2012, according to the BBC the nation’s biggest ever year of sport, it seems Micah Richards of Manchester City has to pull down his twitter account because the racist abuse thrown at him by anonymous haters was so disgusting.  
 
He wasn’t the only black footballer to feel the vent of racist fury and that makes the reaction of the FA laudable in stripping John Terry of the England captaincy. But he should have been suspended from the team. It also makes the reaction of Fabio Capello so stupid. If a politician or policeman was due in court to face the charges that Terry stands accused of, there is no way he would been able to remain working as normal. This is basically the point of principal that Capello resigned over – that Terry should continue with his high profile role in our national life as if nothing happened. 
 
Like Capello, Kenny Dalglish and Liverpool FC and its players have totally missed the point. Whatever they felt about what happened to Luis Suarez, the t-shirt wearing and Kenny’s TV interviews, like Capello’s resignation, are seen as apologist by football’s racist element. They have supplied the mass acceptance that allowed the racist songs of 80s and that is dangerous. Zero tolerance is the only way forward. 
 
Suarez was found guilty and banned for eight games and not to show contrition and shake Evra’s hand on Saturday was not just brain-dead but also exemplifies exactly what the problem is. They have lost perspective. Suarez believes he was wronged, not Evra, because he feels he was misinterpreted. Liverpool were so desperate to keep their star striker on the pitch that they only saw their loss not the bigger social picture. Capello too, a huge ego, tied to Terry because of reinstating him as England captain once before (after he was fired over the Wayne Bridge scandal), could not see beyond his own selfish desire to maintain his first choice back four. Although John Terry is innocent until proven guilty, he can’t lead England with this accusation hanging over him. He could have got his court case out of the way before the Euros. As he didn’t he shouldn’t play. The suspicion is enough for him to be excluded. 
 
What none of them see is that anything seen as tolerance to racism is unacceptable in the English game. 
 
In the meeting to discuss the issue someone within the FA apparently called John Terry toxic. He is, but not half as toxic as letting the genie of racism out of the bottle again. 
 

Share on Facebook
  • Music
  • Style
  • Life
  • Subcasts
  • Essay
BEHIND SYRIA
Syria: living under an iron curtain all of its own.
FACEBOOK FOIBLE #235
Are Facebook users as free as they think they are?
STUDENT STRIPPER
We interviewed Cara, a student dancing to get by. Victim or self-made woman?
CINEMA'S MUSHROOM CLOUD
The Cold War B-movies that could blow up all over again.
OBAMA'S NO ANGEL
After a not-so hectic election night, Barack Obama has the opportunity to right his many wrongs....
SUPERSTORM DISASTER DREAM
Why there's more than meets the eye to the Sandy story.
GENTRIFICATION IN ACTION
Brixton's buzzing. But will the predictable threat of gentrification destroy the community?
BARACK OBAMA'S JAZZ
The coolest President in the history of the USA gets some jazz treatment.
SALAMWORLD
In Novemeber a Muslim alternative to Facebook will launch: is global social media breaking up?
IS THIS MYSPACE?
The original paper tiger of social media is back. And it looks fucking cool.
THE RISE OF THE COFFEE SHOP INDIE
The Indie Scene is Going Mainstream. Substance reports.
CHUCK NORRIS BLESS AMERICA
VIDEO: Another Hollywood giant makes a right old Republican of himself.
COPYING THE COPY-CAT
Tom Rollins asks what encourages copy-cats to go postal: nasty films or gun laws?
SHOOT AN' CRY
NBC's Stars Earn Stripes earns its place in TV hell
MEDITATING ON THE RECESSION
Unemployed? Skint? Fearghus Roulston finds the new spiritual side of the recession in Manchester.
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES
Christopher Nolan's Batman remembers 9/11 better than most
OUR LABOUR IS THE NEW LABOUR
Sedgefield has always had a special place in the history of the Labour movement.
WE KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING
Let this be a warning.
SOUNDING OFF: The Love Police
Tackling one man's hipster hate on Brick Lane
KEEPING IT (UN)REAL.
X Factor and today's mass media: is reality TV changing the way we look at the world?
COMING AT YOU
The Future of 3D Technology
METAFICTIONAL TITTY PINCHERS
A great year for experimental fiction
THEY OWN YOUR DOWNLOADS
The great IP swindle...
FIGHT THE POWER
Political Violence Defended
THE DEATH OF BRICK LANE
Pen-pushers trashing cultural zones...