Many of you will be waking up to the clip of a black man being pushed out of a London Underground train carriage by so-called Chelsea fans, who would then go on to chant ‘we’re racist, and that’s how we like it,’ among others. Of course, this incident has immediately brought on a massive backlash from noted public figures. Stan Collymore and Emmanuel Frimpong led the charge on Twitter, with the latter stating that ‘To be fair With JT leading them I’m not surprised,’ referring to the infamous case between Anton Ferdinand and Terry in 2011.
Collymore however, would, in my view wrongly, go much much further. He immediately deleted a tweet which read ‘A Small Minority…My Arse,’ which followed one which named both Chelsea and Rangers along with the hashtags #NF (referring to right-wing organisation the National Front) and #BNP (the xenophobic and outwardly racist British National Party). Before we go any further, I will not bring up any facts of Collymore’s past which might sway my opinion in this article. What he said last night was wrong. He is in the public eye. He is an ex-footballer, and a radio broadcaster. He has said this to make people’s blood boil. He wants to start controversy, and he wants this argument.
Let’s talk about racism in football. It is wrong, what these people did I will not defend. These people in the clip are not football fans, they are violent thugs looking for confrontation. They should be punished to the fullest extent of the law, and refused entry into any football ground ever again. But what they have done will tar us all, Chelsea fans, and English fans, and football fans, with the same brush.
Obviously, Chelsea will rightly bear the brunt of this incident (completely unconnected with Mourinho’s ‘Campaign’) due to their historical links with hooliganism in the ‘80s, alongside Millwall and West Ham (among others). This is not to suggest in any way that Chelsea are being unfairly treated. But it’s wrong to say that Chelsea, Rangers or any club is racist as an institution, and in particular one in Europe. Look at the amount of different colours and nationalities that play in the Premier League alone. Look at European giants Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. Unfortunately, there are always going to be small pockets of racism, because there are always going to be stupid, violent people.
Yes, there have been incidents in football, and there has been a wide and vague definition of what racism is and what it means. To me, racism is a prejudiced, irrational hatred against each and every member of a single race, religion, or nationality. These people pushed that black man off the train, on the basis of his race. They are racists. They have no argument. But I will put out a controversial point- I honestly don’t believe that John Terry is a racist, in that he doesn’t hold a prejudice against every black or mixed race person. What was said to Anton Ferdinand was undoubtedly wrong. Maybe he lost his temper, I don’t know. He was wrong and he was rightly punished. But he is not a racist. Luis Suarez was idiotic, misguided and wrong in his incident with Patrice Evra. He was wrong to do what he did, and he was rightly punished. But he is not a racist.
Back to Collymore’s comments. I have been a Chelsea fan all my life, my father is one, and my grandfather was one. My father and grandfather were both white British. They have never supported, taken part in or believed in any form of institutionalised racism. I am mixed-race, Asian and British. I have never gone to a Chelsea game and experienced racism because of my colour. I have never, at Stamford Bridge, heard racist chanting. I fully, honestly and completely believe that the majority of Chelsea fans are not racists.
I once worked with someone who was part of a firm of West Ham fans when he was younger (he was in his late ‘60s at this point), who told me that he never really believed in what he was chanting, and he doubted that any one of his friends did either. It’s just a group mentality, a load of bored young people baying for blood and violence. Once the blood is boiling, you don’t know what you’re saying. You don’t think of what it makes other fans think about your club or your supporters. Of course, this is in no way condoning what may have done or said, he is still very much in the wrong, which he freely accepted.
And think about non-football fans, who will look down on our game as something violent and ugly. At the very least, Chelsea need to take a very public stance against racism. As football fans, as intelligent, measured lovers of our beautiful game, we should unite against racists, and racism, and hooliganism, and violence, as one. I’m not naïve enough to believe that it doesn’t happen and is still happening, but I do believe that the FA and UEFA are doing a good job in a difficult time of stamping it out. It’s a very long road ahead, as racism is still very much widespread in some parts of Europe. Don’t be sucked into a belief that at ANY club, racism is supported, condoned or encouraged. Don’t unite against Chelsea, or Rangers or Millwall or West Ham. Unite against racism.