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Race is often the nearest stick idiots have to hand

March 30, 2013

I have seen the Black Stars of Ghana play twice in England. The first time was a match against Australia that was played in Loftus Road maybe five or six years ago.

The second time was against England at the new Wembley stadium in 2010. It was the second time I had travelled to Wembley to watch England and I was especially hyped for this match as it was the first England friendly that had ever captured my interest.

I’m a comedian now but I’ve been a lover of cheeky banter all my life, so I enjoyed the jokes I shared with friends and colleagues as time approached for both friendlies. It was fun. It’s nice to connect with people. That is why football is so popular in the first place.

However, both matches were very different experiences.

Australia v Ghana: fun, joyous, loud.

England v Ghana: tense, frustrating and disturbing.

I remember a lot of singing and dancing at a freezing Loftus Road all those years ago, a lot of celebrating and a lot of entertainment, mainly provided by the Ghanaian supporters. I remember feeling glad they had an excuse to take their flags from their homes that day and wave them around in West London. The same goes for the Australian supporters; many local to the area, who got to do the same.

The match against England started off okay. It was a sell-out and Wembley Way was a sea of red, gold, green and white.  It was a great feeling of exciting anticipation for the sport ahead.

It was turned sour by racial abuse.

A white England supporter, seated a few rows in front of me and my friends, was being incredibly loud and in some instances, crass. There was malice in his voice. My friend, who is of varied heritage but put simply, is half Kenyan, half English, decided to ask the man if he would tone down his vocal support/condemnation. The man in question was with his family, some members of whom were young. There were other children around us too.

The next thing we know this gentleman turns his back on the game to face our row, and in particular, my friend.

He then showers him (and invariably, us) with a tirade which included statements like:

“This is my country, not your country, I’ll sing as loud as I like”

“Go home”

“Eng-er-land, Eng-ger-land, Eng-er-land….”

This was the first time my friend had been to a football match. Do you think he’d ever return?

Rio

I recall this incident after the chanting directed and Rio and Anton Ferdinand last week because Rio Ferdinand didn’t travel with the England squad for last week’s matches.

The FA, even though they are taking into account ‘media commentary’ don’t agree that the chanting was racially motivated.

Their heads are so far plunged into the ground you can just about see their ankles above the surface.

If it wasn’t racially motivated, why did they insist on directing their feedback to Anton Ferdinand? He had nothing to do with Rio Ferdinand’s decision not to travel. He did have a lot to do with a high profile racial abuse trial.

If it wasn’t racially motivated, why did they sing about making a bonfire, upon which Anton and Rio are willed to burn to death on? It’s been a while since I heard of supporters singing songs about killing white footballers.

Racism is a funny old thing. You don’t actually have to mention words like ‘wog’, ‘nigger’ or ‘sambo’ to racially abuse me. My reading of insinuation, intonation, context and intent will give me reason enough to decide if  something comes from your prejudices.

Racism is a funny old thing. When the England v Ghana match finished, the fat racist who goaded my friend approached him after the match and shook his hand. A bit of racism is just part and parcel of the beautiful game, isn’t it? They guy probably had mixed race kids or nephews/nieces. His neighbour might be Indian. But Wembley Stadium is his territory where he can do what he likes. That’s his reward for holding is tongue elsewhere.

It was the same with the England fans who went to watch San Marino. They probably have lots of meaningful and tolerant contact with people of all different backgrounds. But with the shirt on, in the stadium, they can say what they really think without reprimand.

When I was young I was sometimes beaten when I was naughty. My mum didn’t have a special switch for this, she would beat me with whatever she had to hand.

That’s what this kind of racism is. The supporters who harangued my friend and the Ferdinands don’t spend their days bemoaning immigration, they’re not in the National Front and they like their vindaloos. They attack us with race because like the slipper or wooden spoon, it’s the nearest thing they have to hand.

And whilst the FA does nothing, it always will be.

 

 

 

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