Why the nature of football means that the unsavoury, like racism, will never be eradicated – by Rob Mcallister
Racism has been part of football for many years, but in more recent times it was thought to have been all but eradicated from the beautiful game – until recently of course.
There has been a storm of racism related articles springing up in the world of football related media.
First, of course, Suarez and that can of worms, followed by Terry, followed by a moronically insulting Oldham fan, and so on, until in the space of a week Cappello has been fired because the FA decided Terry isn’t being found guilty of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand quick enough.
We football fans can expect the storm to continue for months – firstly, Terry’s trial is coming up, secondly, Suarez has been turned into a pantomime villain, and thirdly, most importantly, because moral outrage is a brilliantly loaded cow to milk for news outlets.
And that’s the key – it pays to print ‘RACIST’ and put Suarez’ face on the back page of a newspaper and pretend this is an evil that has suddenly appeared into existence again. It isn’t – in the 07/08 season for example, there were 23 racism related arrests – if the media had cared they could’ve had a field day with that. To put that number in some kind of perspective, that is a record low season for racism related arrests.
And it’s not just racism. Any supporter knows that going beyond the pale is nothing new. If you are a Liverpool or Manchester United fan, you know of the various tragedy-related chants that fly back and forth from the certain types of drooling moron that inhabit football.
If you’re a Rangers or Celtic fan with a brain, you’ve probably found yourself getting into frightening hate-filled conversations with those that support sectarianism. Whatever portion of football-dom you inhabit, rivalry exists for the most part as nothing more than friendly banter, sadly though, this isn’t the case with every supporter.
Of course, football rivalry also helps sports channels to get people to tune in.
Not to say that sky are to blame for this. People getting riled up over football has been the way of things since football began in the form of village wars in medieval times, and Rupert Murdoch had only just been born then.
‘Beyond the pale’ has followed football through generations, past entire empires and even outlasting a rampant hooligan culture – it’s the alcohol of football, the euphoria and the rage which makes it so important to some.
Beyond the pale comes from what makes professional football as good as it is – you pick your team and just like that, you are in that football family. You share the pain, the glory, the frustration and the last minute triumph.
You experience the shame if you win and the right to gloat when beating a bitter rival. It is this, the football that makes it the most popular sport in the world – because football is not so much about the game itself but the emotion it brings to bear. You want your team to win, so the chants come out, the mini games surrounding the one on the pitch, cutting razor chants directed at the opposition which generally don’t go ‘Where your wife takes it is none of our business.’
The problem is exacerbated over the medium of the internet. Fans abusing the likes of Micah Richards on twitter, fans who, with their tribalism slant, fail to understand their hypocrisy and call fans of other teams scum and stereotype – this is the type of thing the internet also brings to football, more interaction and depth to the sport we love but also, much more room for people to feed off negative news about opposition. Saying stupid things, letting the emotion of it all make you stupid, is part and parcel of football – it’s loving your team in spite of its flaws and defending it against all perceived enemies.
This kind of thing ensures that there will always be emotional, possibly racist morons in football. To most it is unacceptable – to others it’s just an easy step from what is already a pent up, emotional game. But, and this is important – the vast majority in football are so much more then footballing media are currently making them out to be.
(Editor’s note: Racism in the beautiful game has existed for many years – between players it’s inexcusable and players should be severely reprimanded when it occurs. Football will always carry a certain violent aspect amongst the fans but this has reduced in recent years – for a more comprehensive study of racism and violence in football, see this article by the Social Issues Research Centre.)
Rob McAllister is a wannabe vagrant with a spluttering career in screenwriting and a passing interest in football. Sometimes he likes to write about these things. Having acquired an English degree from Falmouth University, he is working his way to making something of himself, possibly involving writing movies.’