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How Long will Institutionalised Hypocrisy be the Conduit to solving Racism?

Racism in Football

“It’s 2019. I think there should be a real punishment for this,” said Raheem Sterling after he and his teammates were subjected to racist chants by Montenegro fans on Tuesday. But isn’t it sadder that in 2019 the pathway to kick racism out of football is majorly premised on ‘let’s tackle the symptoms, not the cause?’

Stadium ban, play behind closed doors, close down a section of the stadium, deduct points, and so on. The end result is clear, as a white football fan, behave well to people of other race for one match day (two maximum), then the other six or five days, you can continue to hurl the monkey chants.

The fact that football fans get their mouth shut at stadia does not mean the fight against racism is being won, alas, the focus is only at the top level. Who cares about Manny Brown? According to Manny, who plies his trade with English Sunday league team Radar FC, he was being put on the substitutes’ bench because he is black Or Zeeshan Ali, 28, of FC Peterborough, who on his part claimed he was head-butted on the pitch because of his race.  A report in the Skysports has it that cases of discrimination in grassroots football are on the rise, with religious-based incidents up to around 16% percent in the last four years.

Two conspicuous indicators aftermath the England-Montenegro’s game were, firstly, almost nobody cares about racism: it only matters when the privileged fall victim. While the Montenegro coach said he never heard any racist chant, some English dailies, who are at the forefront of subtle racism against some of their players, had to be at the forefront of the fight against racism – for the obvious reason – no club football over the weekend, and the people had to read something.

The second indicator from the game was, maybe victims, while still harbouring a tinge of hope that things might change, on the other hand, have started accepting the fact that unseating the status quo might be impossible. “All of us know what skin colour we are so they’re not saying anything new,” Sterling said. Is it right for the footballers to resign that nothing could be changed? No, but they knew that racism, ethnocentrism, jingoism, and bigotry are first, societal issues. Also, footballers have a clear understanding that the perpetrators of the heinous act don’t exist in isolation – a somewhat commensal relationship exist between them and the football authorities, and even the club owners.

Sterling v Montenegro
Sterling spoke out on racist chants during England’s win in Montenegro

Late last year, Tobias Jones describing the racist abuse aimed at Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly in the game against Inter, in the Guardian, wrote, ‘racism is a commonplace in Italian football – and points to a wider malaise.’ Tobias explained the emergence of perpetrators of most evil acts at Italian stadia – the Ultras, the connection between the ultras and politicians and how they have been gaining the sympathies and supports of neo-fascists, in which some are football leaders belong, amongst many others.  

While covering some local games here in Nigeria last year – a time when cases of football violence became a conundrum in the country, I saw how the street urchins dine and wine with club owners – some of the urchins primarily brought to the stadium to cause mayhem. I saw how some section of football fans hurled some unprintable and unpalatable words at players on the pitch. And most times, I asked myself, “wouldn’t I prefer a white to call me a monkey, than be in front of my people and they rain curse on my parents, families, and where I come from?”

In my mind, I concluded that racism, ethnocentrism, bigotry, jingoism, and other problems facing football have no country: they emanate from subtle indoctrination in the society – as you see in Nigeria, where anywhere herders lay mayhem, they are instantaneously labelled “Fulani herdsmen,” or like when we hear Muslim terrorists, Nigerian con men, African patriarchs, and so on.

Sanctions are nothing if there’s nothing alongside to help educate racists. Education is worthless if individually no one is taking responsibility for their positive impact in the society – and very soon, individual accountability might reign supreme over all the conduits laced in hypocrisy that are geared at solving racism in football.

England’s coach, Gareth Southgate, while giving his recommendations on how to curb the recurrence of what happened in Montenegro, did well to give an account of himself: “My kids don’t think for one minute about where people are born, what language they speak, what colour they are.”

Can the same be said of you?

Olatosimi Fadahunsi279 Posts

Olatosimi is a part-time non-professional footballer and a football writer with spotkick. His ideology/mind/eyes endlessly rove multidimensionally.


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