I recently did a drama performance which was devised and we titled it “Get Mad” each one of us in the performance had a monologue on what we wanted people to think about. I did mine on racism in football and if it exists there it will exist everywhere. I argued that there are Non-Government Organisations (NGO’s) that go over to the west bank and get Israelites and Palestinians to play together and work together in local communities and if we can get them to work together there, then we can get people from anywhere in the world to be together.
Turns out as shown recently on BBC’s Panorama I was wrong, oh so very wrong. The Ukraine and Poland have taken the beliefs of Nazi’s from yesteryear and dragged them from the gutter right the way in to the 21st century. Forming white power cults for football teams by fans known as ‘ultras’ where politics is a bigger part of their football club bigger than the football. These ‘ultras’ are Nazi saluting, flag waving, celtic cross wearing hooligans and the racist chanting is allowed to go on by the stewards, the police, the respective football governing bodies and also the government of these countries.
So what’s the big deal I hear you say? There over there we’re over here it’s not going to affect us. WRONG! unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months Euro 2012 is happening soon, second only to the world cup for European football teams. England are heading over there, with players of colour in their team. This is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s first tournament, his parents and family have been advised not to go because they are of colour. Danny Welbeck, Ashley Young and Glenn Johnson all of colour, given the amount of abuse players of colour get given when playing in Ukraine and Poland get it’s not going to be a welcoming experience for these players. Mario Balotelli, Italy’s young enigma, who’s been touted as the most charismatic players to grace the premiership since one Eric Cantona, has vowed to walk off the pitch if he succumbs to any form of abuse.
So how have UEFA let this happen? How come it is the case that this is showing up now? Weeks before the tournament so no-one can do anything about it? Well money talks, money talks fast and hard. UEFA will say it’s a chance for Ukraine and Poland to redeem themselves, show that they are not the racist countries that they are being branded, whilst counting the millions that this tournament will make for them.
As for English fans, well you have been warned, do not travel over there, it’s been on the TV it’s been in the news papers. Sol Campbell a former England player who has been a subject of racist abuse by fans before has told fans to watch it on TV because there is a “chance of coming home in a coffin”.
Being a person of colour myself I know what it’s like to have racial abuse thrown at you while playing, did it phase me? No. Did it bother me? Yes. I just hope that the English players aren’t dealt with too roughly and that they can hold their heads up high after the tournament and not have to deal with the pressure of the media when coming home as well as the pressure of playing in front of such hostile crowds.