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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.

Posted By

Ed
Feb 7 2012 14:38

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Comments

Awesome Dude
Feb 12 2012 00:44

That football clubs go to extreme lengths to "protect" their investment shouldn't be shocking. They've spent millions in solicitors fees hiding their star players from the "roasting" outrage. Not only do they play together on the football field but they also fuck together. Footballers have a pack mentality and the fans a tribal mentality. Maybe the tribal mentality is a reproduction of "tribal" life in the workplace (think of the zombies in living dead heading for the shopping mall)?

I wasn't that surprised by the racist out bursts from fans. The ideological factors (nationalism, xenophobia etc) that produce conditions conducive to the social acceptance of racist ideas still remain hidden beneath the veneer of "equality" legislation. IMO it begins in the workplace and spheres of reproduction like "communities" (home, school, pub etc). In particular, that access to jobs are determined by immigration status and ethnicity simply reinforces ideas learned through "common prejudice". The same is true when it comes to welfare provisions (tabloids stressing that native inhabitants should have primary access to social housing and schools). This IMO is the material basis for loyalty to the nation and tribe (and the us and them culture that persists in working class culture despite legislation and on the surface disapproval by public institution).

Serge Forward
Feb 12 2012 00:47
plasmatelly wrote:
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.

Typical fucking City fan grin

Ernestine
Feb 12 2012 00:59

Football is a beautiful game, awesome. It is marketed horribly.

Awesome Dude
Feb 12 2012 01:33

Football is much more than 90minutes 22 men and a leather ball. The beautiful game has an ugly side to it. We saw that in Egypt a few weeks ago and we are reminded by pointless clashes like this one. Which is a shame because the two teams historic mutual animosity comes from a labour dispute (historic working class issues conveniently hidden by the modern mass commercial monster called modern football).

Standfield
Feb 12 2012 01:38
plasmatelly wrote:
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.

Politics are in football. Being a former season ticket holder at my club, and still going to the occasional one when they play in London, I'd say that I've seen a great deal. Not necessarily on a serious level, but nonetheless there. For me, football and politics are inevitable. You get a huge group of working-class people meet up, every Saturday and converse in stadiums, pubs, etc. It almost acts as the town's weekly meeting in that respects.

But football teams are no less diverse than the average town in England. The only criteria is to like football, and there's a lot to like about it. So you're going to get a wide range of views coming into the ground. No team is any less racist, or right or left-wing than the other. It just depends heavily on what controversial event happens on the pitch, and then people take sides (sometimes against there own teams). But the sensible fans are never highlighted in the media, and this in turn increases the ugly gang-mentality that we see.

I'd agree with the sentiment above that football is a beautiful game, but marketed horribly. In fact, the marketing and business side of it ruins everything beautiful about it, and fans are picking up on this I think (FCUM, Wimbledon, etc).

Awesome Dude
Feb 12 2012 07:42
Standfield wrote:
I'd agree with the sentiment above that football is a beautiful game, but marketed horribly. In fact, the marketing and business side of it ruins everything beautiful about it, and fans are picking up on this I think (FCUM, Wimbledon, etc).

This is very much along the lines of activists who set up worker run co-ops in the hope of "beating" the rules of exploitation. You can't remove football from captial. At some point if FCUM and Wimbledon find themselves climbing up the league tables, they'll have to find the dosh to pay for better players and to hold on to the decent ones.

BTW I'm not here to knock the beautiful game. I'm a West Ham fan and used to frequent Leyton Orient games years ago (and lost a good portion of my teen years to Champ Manager). I just have no illusions in the game, the greedy professional players, pig ignorant fans and the highly exploitative business that goes with it.

Serge Forward
Feb 12 2012 09:30

Standfield, speaking as a co-owner of FCUM, I'd say we are not expecting to 'beat' the rules of exploitation or remove football from capital. What we do expect, however, is to create a bit of football that is ours.

Football was never socialist or anti capitalist. What it was though, was a working class social space where you met your mates, schoolmates, workmates, family members, etc. When I first started going to Old Trafford, even though United had already become the richest club in the country and outright commercialism was starting to go into overdrive, it was still very much a working class social space. Also, it was cheap entertainment - my kids ticket cost me 40p, an adult ticket wasn't much more and the whole family could go at little cost.

The fact, is, kids' tickets are probably closer to 40 quid these days. If I wanted to go to OT and take my two kids, it'd probably cost about £150 for one fucking game... but as I'm not a member/season ticket holder, it'd cost loads more for one-off tickets. Then, once I'd got in, there be no mingling with your friends and workmates, or the kids heading down to the front because we'd now have to stay put in our seats... remember, this is the 'Theatre of Dreams' after all, and you can get ejected and banned for standing up, never mind looking for you friends. Actually, your friends wouldn't be there because they've all been priced out and/or become sickened by what's happened to our club (notice, the 'FC' has long gone from the club name as they can't justify calling this commercial monstrosity a 'club') and our game as a whole. Sure, you might still get the odd one still turns up and you could wave at each other across the massive expans of gleaming stadium. Nowadays though, the person next to you will most likely be wearing a half and half scarf (United/Liverpool or United/City, for fuck's sake) and taking shitloads of photos for the folks back home... or it'll be some unspeakably posh Herbert out to experience the delights of 'the beautiful game'.

But none of this has been accidental, the football industry has attempted (and largely succeeded) in their embourgeoisification project, making a conscious effort to push the plebs out of football. Our place now, is to watch it on Sky TV or ESPN with you can of beer in hand, and later listen to the shite talked on 5 Live or read all about it in the back pages of the papers, so you can talk bollocks about it at work.

Anyone who thinks any of this is not political either knows nothing about football or has their head up their arse.

Standfield raises a good question. Will FCUM become commercialised, aim for promotion at all costs, spend more and more on players and eventually become every bit as commercialised as the mainstream clubs? While nothing is a foregone conclusion, I'd say it's unlikely for the immediate, short and medium term future mainly because it's been built by survivors of modern corporate football, people who reject what it's all about and see the benefit in building a valuable working class social space. I believe we currently spend less on players than any other Northern Premier League club (and at some divisons below us) and this will always put a ceiling on what we will achieve, i.e. success on the pitch. I'd say most members/owners are happy with this.

Of course, if FCUM is still around in 50 years time, who can truly say whether or not it will have sold out? It's in our constitution to be a democratically run, non-profit community organisation, providing affordable football and is opposed to outright commercialism... so I'd say probably not, but there are no guarantees in this game of ours.

Football, eh? wink

gypsy
Feb 12 2012 10:04

Boydell
Feb 12 2012 11:31

zoikes! the picture above reminded me of the shots of John Terry on the bench at last week's Chelsea game.

When first Chelsea goal went in, you could see him watching the big screen in the ground to see if it would cut to him. When he realised it had, he gave a big hug to the black bloke sitting next to him - it made me shudder. It made me squirm.

I think Gabriel Kuhn's "Soccer vs the State" is a must read for anyone interested in the arguments about politics in football, past and present.

There's an interview with him here that says good stuff on Ultras, and the difference with hooligans, which helps us Brits make more sense of the Egyptian football backstory i reckon:
http://www.radio4all.net/index.php/program/51724

Here's a good article from the Indy on it just in case you missed it, about how we let our own 'hooligan' narrative get in the way of understanding the Ultra movement:
http://blogs.independent.co.uk/2012/02/02/the-fight-over-the-port-said-football-narrative-has-already-begun/

'Soccer vs the State" also got a good section on autonomous football clubs - lest we forget, St Pauli aren't a 'left wing club', they had that hero keeper and a couple of other players who were hardcore, and that attracted a big anti-racist fan base (along with the rivalry with Hansa Rostock) , but the institution of St Pauli is still a capitalist outfit.

Talking of essential reading, i've just finished Gary Imlach's "my father and other working class heroes", for anyone who needs their rose-tinted lenses removed about the 'good old days' of football! :0)

Mark.
Feb 12 2012 12:20
Boydell wrote:
There's an interview with him here that says good stuff on Ultras, and the difference with hooligans, which helps us Brits make more sense of the Egyptian football backstory i reckon:
http://www.radio4all.net/index.php/program/51724

Here's a good article from the Indy on it just in case you missed it, about how we let our own 'hooligan' narrative get in the way of understanding the Ultra movement:
http://blogs.independent.co.uk/2012/02/02/the-fight-over-the-port-said-football-narrative-has-already-begun/

A couple more links on Port Said

http://www.egyptindependent.com/node/652266

http://commentmideast.com/2012/02/the-twin-towers-of-port-said-exclusive-interview-with-al-masry-stars-the-zekri-brothers/

plasmatelly
Feb 12 2012 13:26

jesus! I must have been pissed last night... I can't even remember writing it. sounds good though.

Caiman del Barrio
Feb 12 2012 13:54
Awesome Dude wrote:
Football is much more than 90minutes 22 men and a leather ball. The beautiful game has an ugly side to it. We saw that in Egypt a few weeks ago and we are reminded by pointless clashes like this one. Which is a shame because the two teams historic mutual animosity comes from a labour dispute (historic working class issues conveniently hidden by the modern mass commercial monster called modern football).

Hi this was recently shown to be a myth by a prominent and radical S London blogger: http://libcom.org/history/millwall-not-scabs-shock

Caiman del Barrio
Feb 12 2012 14:03
gypsy wrote:

Yeah, obviously this proves very little, and I'm not sure if I've said this before on here, but...

I think it's probably fair to say that "negrito" isn't automatically a racial slur in Latin America. It's a pretty common trait for Latins to nickname each other according to a defining physical characteristic (gordito, flaquita, guerito, etc) and it's usually meant in a light-hearted, even affectionate way. It's also used as a descriptor ("conoces a José Luis? El negrito ése?") This doesn't excuse Suárez of course, not only cos his intent is hardly the point here (if Evra or any other black person is offended then it does make it de facto insulting IMO) but also cos he's not in Latin America and hasn't been for a good few years and should therefore cop the fuck on.

However, I don't think it makes him a massive anti-black racist, just someone who's willing to sink to despicable levels in the context of achieving a sporting victory (presumably Suárez' intention with the slur was to unsettle and distract Evra and thus make it easier to beat him to the next ball into the box). FWIW, I think the reaction of both him and Liverpool has been way worse than the original action in itself.

Steven.
Feb 12 2012 18:50

Caiman, while the particular word referring to someone's ethnicity might not be racist (for example the word "black" here), using it while having a go at someone is racist. For example, calling someone a "black idiot" or what have you.

Joseph Kay
Feb 12 2012 23:04

tbh, i can see the argument that 'negrito' isn't racist per se (as Caiman says, it's a diminuative which takes the sting out of it i think... e.g. perro/dog becomes perrito/puppy/doggy), even if used to wind someone up. However, Suarez' and Liverpool's subsequent actions, including many of their fans declaring open season for racist abuse in the stands, on twitter etc, has kinda closed off that interpretation. if he genuinely didn't mean to offend, he'd have apologised and shown some humility. instead the Liverpool martyr complex kicked in and they went FULL RACIST SPARTACUS. Him and Dalglish have now apologised for the handshake incident, after intervention from Liverpool's owners, so maybe this episode has run it's course.

Dannny
Feb 12 2012 23:51

In any case he didn't say "negrito" he said "negro", this much is not contested.

Joseph Kay
Feb 13 2012 08:26

Oh right. Even less plausible then. What a cunt.

Caiman del Barrio
Feb 13 2012 15:32

TBH I think this is a far too literalist interpretation: "negro" can be used in a light-hearted or neutral fashion just like "negrito". Steven's right to emphasise the importance of context but I think the key issue here is that Suárez has seemed to express zero remorse here and clearly thinks that racism (even if only on a hypothetical level) is acceptable within a sporting context.

baboon
Feb 13 2012 17:59

Yes, I agree with Revol above. All it needed - and still needs - is for Saurez to apologise for the original racist abuse of Evra.

Contrary to some of the comments above, I still think that football, at all levels, is an overwhelming working class supported sport. It's unique. There's plenty of workers earning enough money for season tickets (I had one over the Arsenal in the 60s and I was on average earnings for London). And a lot of supporters of the big teams go from all over the country to just one or maybe two games a season. I know a couple of workers that do this with their families.

I've followed a local park/pub side in the sticks for over ten years now - about a hundred at most for a local derby - and never seen or heard any racist abuse. Different coloured faces in the crowd and a good atmosphere.

Serge Forward
Feb 13 2012 18:18
baboon wrote:
I've followed a local park/pub side in the sticks for over ten years now - about a hundred at most for a local derby - and never seen or heard any racist abuse. Different coloured faces in the crowd and a good atmosphere.

Aye. Love following football at non league level. Trips to Matlock, Chasetown and Stocksbridge Park Steels are always a real treat.

Dannny
Feb 13 2012 21:11

To be fair, there's no way rugby league is less working class than supposedly unique football.

D
Feb 13 2012 22:43

As bad as this incident has been I don't really think it has caused/shown a rise in racism in football - which has always been there. In some ways I think it has shown how it has declined; outside of Liverpool fans it appears to me Suraez is overwhelmingly seen as wanker for this and Liverpool in general are getting labelled as a disgrace from most fans, including those who support teams who have no rivalry with Liverpool

The defence of Suarez by Liverpool, while terrible, is only to be expected as like others have said he is a huge asset to their team. The fan reaction shows that, sadly, supporting your team is considered more important than what is right/wrong even with something as vile as racism. A quick read of RAWK (Liverpool fan forum) shows that Liverpool fans critical of Suarez quickly get abused and labelled 'mancs' in disguise

Unfortunately the tribal nature of football is such that it didn't matter which team Suarez played for the fan reaction would have been largely the same. Arsenal fans blindly defended Van Persie when he was accused of rape (I remember claims that the victim was just after his money), Spurs fans vermently defended their homophobic and often seriously vile abuse of Sol Cambell with claims it was 'justified' as he had betrayed them

Arbeiten
Feb 13 2012 23:47
gypsy wrote:

i hope this isn't supposed to be self explanatory. Terry has got a similar picture,

doesn't mean he didn't racially abuse someone.

As Revol has pointed out, even if he go pomo cultural relativist and give Suarez the benefit of the doubt, the exchange was longer than just the one mention of 'negrito'. I can't see how he would have meant it in an endearing manner, given the context [sic].

I think this whole debacle has really highlighted one of the blind spots in popular anti-racist thought. There seems to be a implicit belief that if somebody points something out as racist then the perpetrator has to be wearing a pillow case over their heads burning crucifixes in the front garden. With this popular folk devil in mind, it is easy to post up a stupid picture of Suarez with a black child to muddy the waters a bit. When looking at racism we need to look both at intentions (Suarez aiming to wind up a black man) and consequences (Evra visibly being frustrated and uncomfortable with being called, numerous times, a negro).

gypsy
Feb 14 2012 08:41
Arbeiten wrote:
gypsy wrote:

i hope this isn't supposed to be self explanatory.

doesn't mean he didn't racially abuse someone.
.

A look at my facebook pic will show how I feel about Suarez-

When I used to play junior football(as a teenager), I used to get quite abit of abuse 'paki' and folk trying to wind me up to try and get a response. I can imagine the example of Terry and Suarez has helped keep that tradition alive.

Joseph Kay
Feb 17 2012 12:53

Arbeiten
Feb 17 2012 13:14

Sorry gypsy, your just a little blue 5 letter word to me wink. Though i have actually seen that picture of Suarez with the black child uploaded on people's Facebook in his defence so I assumed you may have been doing the same thing.

Caiman del Barrio
Feb 17 2012 15:42
revol68 wrote:
There really is no need for all this "oh maybe in a different context" or "this is too literalist", have you read the actual report?

No I haven't, I was only aware that Evra claimed he'd been called 10 variations of the word 'negro'. The details paint Suárez in a different light for me.

Arbeiten
Feb 17 2012 16:16

"no hablo con negro" roll eyes

Ed
Feb 21 2012 01:24

Liverpool and Luis Suárez 'critically undermined' anti-racism efforts

Quote:
Liverpool have been accused of critically undermining "efforts to combat racism in football and the wider society in general" with their handling of the Luis Suárez controversy and asked to issue an unreserved apology to Patrice Evra by a prominent group of black leaders.

In an open letter delivered to the club and the manager, Kenny Dalglish, signed by local and national black leaders plus several anti-racism organisations, Liverpool are fiercely criticised for contesting the findings of an independent tribunal appointed by the Football Association which led to Suárez receiving an eight-match ban for racially abusing the Manchester United defender.

flaneur
Jun 10 2012 00:17

The Terry brouhaha doesn't seem to be going away with Ferdinand's omission for obvious reasons. Aside from Hodgson being a bottlejob with big clubs and his moaning about paying too much tax when he was managing in Sweden, he has looked like a right cunt in his excuse making. Why can't he or anyone else just say the real reason? What has made me laugh though is the BBC's skirting around it and mental comments about racism not being an issue this championship. Except the racist playing centre back.