Monday, September 03, 2007

A note on racism in the terraces

I don't always agree with Marina Hyde's writing, but her piece on the recent racist abuse suffered by Mido is excellent. I was appalled to read about this story, having assumed in my ignorance of the Premier League that racism had been entirely stamped out there, unlike in the terraces of Spain and Italy.

Let me first make it clear that I'm not writing this to target any fan group in particular. This is directed towards all racist idiots in the stands who call themselves football fans, and that includes the Barca ultras who had the nerve to hurl racist abuse at Roberto Carlos (while Samuel Eto'o was on the pitch, no less) as much as Lazio's unsavoury fascist fringe.

The arguments put forward in favour of the drunken idiots fall under these 3 categories:
  1. By going out there to play, footballers essentially agree to suffering any abuse the 'supporters' choose to deal out. (The ones who put this one forward are usually incapable of stating it in those terms, but that's whatever intelligence I can gleam out of it.)
    • This is plainly ridiculous, as it seeks to posit that professional footballers are somehow deprived of the rights enjoyed by every other human being on earth not to be subject to discriminatory abuse by virtue of...what, exactly? They're (over)paid to play better football than Joe Public, and they didn't somehow sign away their own fundamental rights with their contract.
    • Futhermore, the supporters pay for the right to watch the game (subject to certain rules of behaviour, just like in every other sector of society), not for any supposed right to hurl abuse. If someone want to pay for the right to behave like animals towards other human beings, I'm sure there are establishments that cater to that sort of thing, but they're not called football stadiums.
  2. Related to the first argument is the one that says abusing players is part of football culture, and stamping it out is just one of those moves by the powers that be to further remove real heart and soul from the sport.
    • First, no one is depriving fans of the right to call Mido or any other player a fat bastard, or an incompetent wanker, and so on. It's nobody else's problem if certain fans aren't creative enough to sling 'witty' abuse at a player without resorting to racist language.
    • Football doesn't exist in a parallel reality. If it's no longer acceptable in the real world, then it's no longer acceptable in the world of football. The sport is not the last refuge of those sentiments that are rightly no longer allowed to be expressed in public, and nor should it be.
  3. Lastly: the fans don't really mean it. Look, we've got Muslim/Black/Jewish/Asian players too!
    • Believe it or not, the 'some of my best friends are [insert minority]' defence (because that's essentially what it is) was actually raised by the Newcastle supporter interviewed about the incident. I thought we were past the era where people needed to be informed of why such a statement was laughable at best, but apparently I'm wrong.
    • Futhermore, whether the people hurling abuse mean it or not doesn't matter. The effect is the same: the victim hears the same thing either way. Conversely, if the most vile racist doesn't act on his or her thoughts or voice them, then they are left alone because in general we do not punish people simply for thinking. After all, in those cases there has been no victim. So to come full circle on this point: I don't care if any of the people engaging in racist behaviour in the stands really love ethnic minorities deep down in their soul. The action itself is wrong, regardless of intent.
My usual disclaimer applies: no intention to offend anyone. Although I do have to note that my personal feelings on this subject are particularly strong ones, which is perhaps reflected in the wording above.

(Coming up: Barca news, a farewell post for Thiago Motta, a match report from the weekend, and international news.)


estoverao said...

Linda, I just wanted to lend my support and encouragement as you tackle an issue which has always been a spiritual and social disease afflicting the soul of 'Western Society'.

The fact that racism still exists doesn't surprise me whatsoever and by not ignoring it and choosing to bring that ugliness to light, whether its that ridiculous Barca cartoon which most non-asians explain away or the rampant racist chanting one hears in stadiums directed at human beings of African descent, you have taken a stand which is courageous and progressive.

As a Madridista, I have always had a soft spot for E'to, not only because he was once one of us, but also because of the undaunted manner in which he stands up against racism and his ability to remind everyone that it is the racists who are actually uncivilized savages.

Linda said...

Thank you. As you say, it's not surprising that such a thing goes on, but still rather sad that we're not past that stage.

Eto'o may have a short fuse, but I've always liked his straight-forwardness, his ability to say what's on his mind, and his unabashed stand for his own rights.