After the closure of the John Terry race row and the not guilty verdict, what better time to evaluate racism in football. In many respects it has improved significantly from the events occurring in the 60’s and 70’s, particularly in England. But sadly the beautiful game is still marred by unsightly occurrences on and off the pitch.
So exactly how far has football come since the monkey taunts and banana throwing of the 70’s and 80’s, when racism was celebrated with more vigour than when a goal was actually scored? Well, many high profile players at the time were targeted often by their own fans. One of those players was Liverpool legend John Barnes who in a recent interview with SKY said “While racism is in society then football can do nothing to eradicate it from the game” and also went to say that “people need to stop thinking racist thoughts, just because you can’t hear as much racism in the modern game doesn’t mean to say that it is not there.”
This is all well and good but I disagree with Mr Barnes, racism in England has improved no end. You do not hear a murmur from the terraces anymore and if you do they are so isolated that the fans are thrown out of the ground with immediate effect and clubs are subsequently fined. And on the pitch racist claims are never black and white (pardon the pun) but involve both parties hauling verbal abuse at each other. I personally don’t believe racist insults are any more hurtful than if you’re insulted over your appearance or about a family member. Due to rivalries verbal or non-verbal insults are and always will be part and parcel of the game, things get said in the heat of the moment and when given time to calm down should be resolved in the words of Sepp Blatter himself, ‘by a simple hand shake.’
Football can go far in eradicating racism and not just in the game but in society as well. This at least applies to countries that play football as a national sport i.e. the whole of Europe and South America. There is simply not enough community campaigns with the right sort of publicity to succeed in getting vast numbers of children of all ages, religions and ethnicities together to play football and in doing so develop close friendships and learn how important it is to work as a team. Integration is the key and if kids from young ages learn for themselves about different religions and ethnicities, in place of a fathers or older brothers biased opinion the better society will be in the future.
But then arrives the million dollar question of who will foot the bill for these community groups? It’s all well and good that the media publicise racism by getting their teeth into a meaty news story but it doesn’t resolve the issue. The community footballing campaigns for children will tackle the issue. Should it be the government who are already stretched financially given the current economic climate or the FA who are notorious for throwing away millions on pay outs to axed England managers? Well I certainly wouldn’t want either to look after my financial books but I do think Mr Bernstein chief of the FA who is determined on getting goal line technology in place for the start of upcoming season should concentrate on the embarrassing issue of racism ahead of making referees redundant, just a thought Mr Bernstein after all it is for the good of the game.
There are without question a number of community campaigns incorporating football and a vast amount of other sports already in place, but my point is that these campaigns are doomed before they begin due to a lack of publicity and funding. People simply don’t know about them. For example football can easily defeat racism if Premier League clubs are involved and get squad members of all races to take part in certain training sessions, the youngsters are without question going to be inspired by their footballing heroes. Everyone has an opinion on the controversial issue of racism but with the correct management football, with its global popularity, can certainly improve integration amongst societies and in turn combat racism once and for all.