Many football supporters have said things at games that we have regretted. On most occasions the regret would have been warranted. But why has racism and violence in local football and around the world become the hottest and most debated topic in the Christmas and New Year periods? Is it because of the quick utilisation of social media voices, the proliferation of racism in our supporter bases, mainstream media finding an easy story to report on or, as I hope, we are becoming less tolerant of those that spew forth their own intolerance and ignorance in the terraces?
Dictionary.com defines racism as;
1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others.
2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.
3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races. (1)
There is no way that this can be condoned in any sector of society, sport just being once facet that is highlighted in the media. The excuse in the terraces that "I've paid good money for these seats, I have a right to say what I want," is antiquated, ill-informed and ignorant. Paying for a seat should not imbue a patron with the right to racism that would never be tolerated in the workplace or home.
Recent events in football around the world have demonstrated that hatred of others in not just common among the paying customers but amongst those that are considered idols of the supporters, players themselves. Liverpool's Luis Suarez and Chelsea's John Terry are the latest and most prominent players accused of racism on the field. Suarez has been found guilty by the English FA and banned for 8 matches whilst Terry has been charged with racially abusing QPR's Anton Ferdinand. Of Suarez, Football.co.uk reported;
When Evra warned him he would punch him if he repeated the remark, Suarez is alleged to have responded "No hablo con los negros (I don't speak to blacks)." Suarez, who was banned for eight matches and fined Â£40,000 after being found guilty of abusing Evra, had attempted to argue that his use of the word "negro" had been inoffensive. (3)
Whether people agree or not, players are role models to children and adults alike. Once a player signs a contract they are effectively employees of their club and of the football association that they are aligned with. The clubs, as a whole are also role models for the area they represent as well as their country. This has been one of the most disappointing aspects of recent racism allegations and findings. Certain clubs have defended their accused player above and beyond denouncing reprehensible behaviours. A minority of club supporters have also defended the indefensible.
In the United Kingdom the 'Kick it out' campaign has endeavoured to educate people about racism and anchor supporters and players in the reality of what racism does to those subjected to the unwarranted tirades both on and off the field. "The brand name of the campaign - Let's Kick Racism Out of Football - was established in 1993 and Kick It Out established as a body in 1997." (2) But even these long running campaigns cannot stop racism, sexism and homophobia in football, only individual fans, players and administrations can achieve these aspirations.
The Football Federation of Australia has recently referred supporters to the FFA Supporter code of Behaviour, and most grounds have a spectator code of behaviour that is often displayed on the ground's scoreboard. http://www.footballaustralia.com.au/site/_content/document/00000075-source.pdf (4)<
With the monitoring of police and ground security incidents of racism and violence have thankfully been few and far between in Australia's A-League. But they are there and even one event is not acceptable.In the end as lovers of the wonderful game of football, the truly world embraced game, we have an individual responsibility to monitor our behaviour.
Then we have the head of football, Sepp Blatter, embarrass himself, again, when he should be extolling the virtues of righteousness over hatred.
One person can make a difference. If we all become that one person, then racism, homophobia sexism and hatred does have a chance to be eliminated from our game. Elimination of these behaviours is not a dream but a society's responsibility.
(1) Racism definition, Dictionary.com, http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/racism, January 2012.
(2) Let's Kick Racism Out Of Football, http://www.kickitout.org/2.php, January 2012
(3) Suarez racism evidence 'unreliable': FA report, Football.co.uk website, http://www.football.co.uk/liverpool/suarez_racism_evidence%20unreliable%20fa_report_rss2009661.shtml, January 2012
(4) FFA, Spectator Code of Behaviour, http://www.footballaustralia.com.au/site/_content/document/00000075-source.pdf