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Racism in sports leaves an ugly trail through the competition – Toonarians Alex Shaw and Brian Anderson look into this issue within soccer. With the recent allegations made against John Terry of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand during a Premier League match between Chelsea and Queens Park Rangers, fresh worries have surfaced about the prevalence of racism in soccer.
Things were then made worse by the comments of FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, who denied there was any problem with racism on the pitch and that any incidents of racism could be solved simply by a handshake.
Regardless of the verdict, the Terry case has damaged the reputation of the English game, a league widely known to have very little problem with racism, especially in contrast to some of the other European leagues, who suffer from incidences of racism both on the pitch and from fans at the games.
The soccer scene in England has enjoyed a fairly good reputation since the late ’80s, with cases of racism few and far between – a key factor behind the fact that black, and more recently Asian, players are represented in the Premier League to a higher degree than in any other national league.
While the players will now come under a higher level of scrutiny for their behavior on the pitch, there has been little complaint about the conduct of the fans up and down the country in terms of their attitude towards players of different ethnicities. Furthermore, the appointments of black players Paul Ince, John Barnes, and Sol Campbell as England captains, have been widely well-received and praised by the majority of England fans.
Whilst the same cannot be said of some fans in Europe, with England players Ashley Cole and Shaun Wright-Phillips both being subjected to racist chants during a game against Spain in Madrid, which even drew the ire of then British prime minister Tony Blair, the England national team, which is usually roughly made up of a 50/50 split of white and black players, has the full backing of their home fans.
Although much of the inclusive attitude in English soccer can be attributed to similar social attitudes in the United Kingdom as a whole, the influence of campaigns such as ‘Let’s Kick Racism Out Of Football’ combat this issue. This initiative was started in 1993 and aimed to encourage inclusion and eradicate discrimination in both the soccer and educational sectors.
Funded by the Football Association, Premier League, and Players Association, the campaign is now in its eighteenth year and has helped make the English league one of the most multicultural and desired places to play in world soccer.
Whilst cases such as Terry’s need to be treated with the utmost seriousness and should they be found guilty of any kind of discriminatory behavior, the harshest appropriate punishment should be handed out, to suggest that racism is a significant problem in English soccer would be to do a disservice to the players and fans, who on the majority, show no racially discriminatory behavior of any sort.
This has even led to soccer becoming a way to try to decrease racism outside of sports, through the ‘Football Unites, Racism Divides’ campaign. Started in 1995, the program looks to bring together communities, where racism still continues to be a problem, by appealing to them through their local clubs stars.
This helps integrate the communities, who see their soccer heroes, both black and white, interacting harmoniously and helps teach them to act similarly.
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