Tribalism and Racism – Football’s Big Problem

Before I begin let me preface this by saying society as a whole does have a racism problem, however due to the unsavoury incidents over the last couple of days it is fairly evident that football as well has a problem. A massive problem.

What happened in Paris following Chelsea’s 1-1 draw in the French capital was nothing short of despicable. A group of subhuman scum started singing “we are racists” and refused entry to a black person who was trying to enter the metro carriage.

This was just a mere 24 hours after Italian managerial legend, Arrigo Sacchi, took it upon himself to say there were far too many foreigners and “black players” in youth systems across Italian football.

These are just incidents in the past day or two, and the fact that they happen so regularly does indeed indicate that football as a whole has a problem with racism. And it is a battle the sport is failing.

The problem with incidents like last night in Paris is that often the outrage generated following it is usually petty tribalistic point scoring by opposing fans. Whilst other fans of the team that were racist are quick to indicate that they do not represent fans of “our football club.” I’m sorry but they do, and there are no two ways about it.  Tribal point scoring isn’t helpful neither is trying to distance yourself from the fact that your fellow fans (and not just one individual might I add) are racists.

The problem with point scoring is that it is used as a stick to beat the team that has done the offending, and the problem with this is that A) it doesn’t take the victim into consideration B) it offers no solution to the plague of racism apart from “Lol your team is racist look at our team we are angels.”

Taking the Premier League as an example and two high profile cases of racial abuse: John Terry and Luis Suarez. Both players were found guilty of racist language towards opposing players (Anton Ferdinand in Terry’s case and Patrice Evra in Suarez’s case). What did it accomplish in banning the two players for lengthy periods? Nothing at all. Why? Because to this day both sets of fans believe that their players did no wrong.

Therein lies the problem, we as a society (and a footballing community) tend to view racism from the offender’s point of view as opposed to the victim’s point of view.  It is very easy to say “he didn’t mean that” when actually you need to understand the victim’s point of view.  Players of colour, and more specifically black players have come through a system that has been designed to put them down at every single conceivable checkpoint in life.

When they finally break through the system designed to hold them back and then to have opposing white players racially abuse them it feels as if no matter what they achieve they will always be looked down upon purely because of their skin colour.

Imagine how it feels then to see a person who has racially abused you being hailed as a hero, and the manager plus his fellow teammates wearing shirts in support of him and virtually none for you. It feels like a kick in the teeth doesn’t it? It is like the white man can do no wrong and no matter how far in life you go it will always be his word that is the be all and end all.

It is time we start looking at racism from the victim’s point of view, and it is time for football fans to stamp it out. Mandatory jail time for every single person found guilty of racial abuse (be it verbal or physical). If you see anyone at a football stadium being a racist little shit, report them to the police straight away. That doesn’t make you a coward.

To quote Jon Stewart “If racism is something you’re sick of hearing about, imagine how exhausting it must be living it every day.”

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