“It’s only banter”. Banter, banter, fucking banter. Anyone who uses the could be placed in a category anywhere between a fool and a racist. A word so socially acceptable among cretins that it is now believed by some to be a moral justification for almost anything, from mocking a rivals’ poor league position to starting a race-hate war.
At some point in history (I must have missed it) those six little letters took on such strength that many feel it allows them to say whatever they want, to whoever they want, and still believe it a justifiable excuse. Do they believe that if the Nazi’s had used “banter” as an excuse, they’d have gotten away scot-free and avoided World War Two? Maybe if Daniel François Malan had uttered the phrase, the bigots would have forgiven him for paving the way to Apartheid?
So far the racism storm smashing our game to pieces is mostly visible inside the stadiums; but already cracks are appearing, and it is starting to seep into the outside world. Recent displays on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook have seen messages sent to footballers containing racist abuse and threats, all of the offenders seemingly believing that their computer screen is some sort of protective bubble. Something needs to be done about the latest tornado threatening our game, before it goes too far.
A few months ago, the act of judging by skin colour looked to be slowly eroding from the game; but the recent actions of a few high-profile players and a higher number of equally small-minded fans are clearly proving that there is still a long way to go before English football can be classed as clean. Much like the homophobia I saw on display at a recent game, there is so much more that can be done – and needs to be done – to raise awareness of the subject.
Every football club should be doing its part to show that insulting people for either their gender, sexuality, colour of their skin, or anything else for that matter; is despicable. A zero-tolerance policy on any kind of abuse – whether it be on the pitch, in the stands, or even on the internet – needs to be taken by all clubs. If a club is seen to not take action against an offending player or supporter, the club itself needs to take responsibility and be punished heavily.
Players can sometimes be seen sporting their “Kick Racism Out of Football” t-shirts before the odd game; and although this is definitely a small step forward, it isn’t exactly getting to the root of the problem. Whilst the usual anti-racism day is again showing awareness to the subject, some clearly believe that this means that racism is acceptable on the other 364 days of the year. And when you have players publicly defending, and in cases even wearing t-shirts supporting a team-mate who has admitted to making racist comments; it makes a complete mockery of these campaigns trying to do good in the game.
The recent statement released by Liverpool during the Evra/Suarez row just goes to show that the clubs are on totally the wrong wavelength. Instead of doing the seemingly correct thing and condemning their players’ remarks, they went on record to back their striker and put themselves in a very stupid position.
And when will some fans realise that condemning your own player when he does something wrong does not mean that you’re not a real supporter. Numerous Kop supporters have gone on to say that they should support Suarez as he is a Liverpool player; but how many of them would be quick to call him “racist scum” should he play for Manchester United? All you are doing is finding an excuse for racism. That was what the Nazi’s did…
At Friday’s Liverpool – Oldham FA Cup clash, a Liverpool supporter was alleged to hurl racist abuse at an Oldham player. If the allegations are proven true – and given the way that the club have practically advocated racism, it wouldn’t surprise me – how do the club go about dealing with the issue? Do they brush it aside as a non-incident and publish a statement declaring that their fans are the best in the country; or do they punish said supporter, showing a display of “One rule for one, one rule for another” which makes them look even more foolish?
Do we only have ourselves to blame for the latest blemish on the sport? With the increased amount of money in the game; power has shifted to the players making them role models for an entire generation. And when some of our population have role models in the form of (England Captain) John Terry and Luis Suarez, are we really surprised that racial discrimination is returning to our supposedly beautiful game?
The whole recent series of racist and homophobic incidents has proven that football in England has taken a massive step backwards in its’ fight against discrimination. It’s ruining the sport we love. And with the attitudes of some supporters on display, and their beliefs that “banter” makes it all okay; we still have a hell of a long way to go before it gets better.