ARTICLE BY TOMOS WYN JONES.
I’m sure everyone of us has been appalled by the gruesome abuse on several black professional footballers over the past few weeks.
That included Manchester United duo Anthony Martial and Axel Tuanzebe, who received abuse following their 2-1 defeat against Premier League strugglers Sheffield United.
After the past 12 months, where many have taken an increasingly powerful stance against racism, these incidents were another setback in the fight for equality.
Professional footballers aren’t the only victims of discrimination, as it occurs in every part of society, including grassroots level. At local level, we have seen very little progress in the fight against racism, where there was, according to statistics shared by the Kick It Out campaign, a fall of just 14% in cases of racism across the United Kingdom in 2020, with most cases occurring during games. However, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, all matches were halted and the season was no completed so we can estimate that numbers would have been higher had it carried on.
93 cases of racism are still a significant number. That’s 93 victims who feel helpless when an individual opens their mouth without a care in the world for what they are saying.
If we want to defeat this terrible disease within society, it is of the utmost priority to educate all on the values of every individual on this planet.
We have seen campaigns such as Kick it Out in England and “Show Racism the Red Card” by the FAW, but are these organisations doing enough? That is the key question.
What more can these organisations do? Can these organisations do more in the quest to defeat racism?
Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford has been an inspiration to us all over the past year, whether it was campaigning for free school meals, or the fight for equality for black athletes, he has certainly matured to be one of Britain’s greatest role models.
However, even all of that has culminated in him receiving horrific abuse online – most recently following United’s 0-0 draw against Arsenal in January. The forward has managed to persuade senior politicians to change their views on key issues in our society, yet the way he has been repaid by his so-called ‘followers’ is disgusting and is seemingly mainly because of the colour of his skin.
Although this abuse is hurtful for both Rashford (above) and his family, he has stood up and expressed his pride in the colour of his skin and heritage, proving that no matter how much abuse is thrown towards him, he will always rise above all.
It was also powerful to see Porto’s Moussa Marega taking a stand and walking off the pitch when he was abused throughout a league game against his former side, Vitoria Guimaraes in February 2020. Marega had scored the winning goal in the 60th minute of Porto’s 2-1 victory, yet 9 minutes later, the Malian forward walked off the pitch. He did not receive the support you would expect from his teammates, with some of them even trying to keeping him on the field with force, including his own manager. It is all well and good coming out and using their social media profiles to express their sadness of the abuse issued towards their teammate after the game, but in my opinion, a more powerful message would be for all 22 players to walk off the pitch together.
Put simply, this isn’t a project for just one person to work on. If we all want to see the end of racism in society, we must all play our part, educate ourselves and others.
Taking the knee has been an act of solidarity and unity between everyone on and off the football pitch. When Aston Villa and Sheffield United (below) took the knee for the first time after the resumption of the Premier League following the COVID lockdown, it sent out a powerful message and pointed towards, perhaps a significant turning point in the fight against racism.
But has taking a knee turned into a more political message now rather than an act of solidarity? We have seen scenes during football matches in November and December 2020, where supporters have jeered players taking the knee, further suggesting that this act has not made the message clear enough. Should the authorities try and come up with a different message that players could use to demonstrate the message?
Ex-Manchester City right back Micah Richards’ documentary “Tackling racism” was yet another powerful piece of TV, where he explored the issues he faced during his successful career. His interviews with current Nottingham Forrest manager Chris Hughton and Premier League legend Andy Cole particularly stood out and caught the eye, after they also spoke out on the vile abuse they had faced throughout their careers, and gave advice on how they dealt with such situations.
Although the police have recently increased the number of arrests linked to racism (mainly in football matches), often enough they do not lead to any further consequences, such as community service, issuing a public apology or a custodial sentence. In my opinion, the police and the authorities have been far too lenient for generations, though, by no fault of their own.
This piece has merely touched the surface of the problem in our society, and indeed in the sport that we all love. We would all one day like to go to a game of football, where 22 players on the pitch, the coaching staff and the boardroom can be from a variety of different ethnic backgrounds, respecting e qualities on and off the pitch, without anyone opposing it.
Racism should not be permitted today, tomorrow, or any other day. It is vile, cruel, and most importantly degrading to the victims. If 2020 has not taught us the valuable lessons of equality and equal rights for all, let 2021 be the year to change.
It is never too late to do the right thing; it is not too late to stand up against racism.