Thursday, November 18, 2004

Kick racism out - wherever it is

During last night's "friendly" in the Bernabeu, England's black players Ashley Cole and Shaun Wright-Phillips were subjected to a disgraceful barrage of monkey noises from a minority of Spanish fans. The day before, it was U21 players Darren Bent, Glen Johnson and Carlton Cole who suffered the same abuse.

Tony Blair was left "very disappointed" by the chanting and Minister for Sport Richard Caborn has said: "I will write to my Spanish counterpart to express my outrage. I would like the Spanish FA to condemn the scenes. I also expect Fifa and Uefa to fully investigate the issue. There is no place for racism in football or modern society, and I strongly believe that action needs to be taken at the highest level". Meanwhile, Newcastle midfielder and England substitute Jermaine Jenas has also spoken out against the abuse.

However, Spain manager Luis Aragones, himself at the centre of a recent row over a racist jibe directed at Thierry Henry, has refused to comment, whilst the Spanish press have broadly downplayed or ignored the issue and, even more astonishingly, Spanish Federation press officer Fernando Garrido has laid the blame at the door of the English press: "Were there racist chants against some players? This hasn't happened in the Spanish league and Spain for many years. So you [English reporters] should ask yourselves what you have done to contribute to all this".

Before we saddle up on our high horses, though, we should bear two things in mind.

Firstly, there's something horribly hypocritical about the Daily Mail voicing its disgust at racism.

Secondly, and more importantly, there's a danger of simply pointing the finger at "Johnny Foreigner" and thereby becoming racists ourselves. Even though, as Pete has pointed out (see comments box), we've made considerable advances in eradicating racism, especially in international matches, there is still some way to go and we shouldn't overlook the fact that the problem still exists on our own doorstep. You only have to read about the disgust felt by the author of 4-3-1-2 Walsall towards his fellow Walsall fans to see that racism is alive and kicking.

Oh, and the England performance was terrible, too, Butt looking utterly out of his depth against the excellent Xavi - though it's harsh to single out any one individual in a display that was collectively woeful.

All in all, the sort of night that leaves a very sour taste in the mouth.


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