Time for football to quash racism for good

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A special report by Sky Sports this week on racism in English football got my attention, but I am somewhat amazed that more than 40 years after I first began experiencing racist chants at English grounds as one of only a handful of black players, the problem still exists in football.

One club, Millwall, came in for special attention after several incidents of racist chanting from the Millwall fans were recorded and shown on Sky Sports on Monday. Leeds striker El-Hadj Diouf was subjected to abuse by supporters and as a result of the footage one fan, a 53 year old, has been charged with a racially aggravated public order offence. Not much seems to have changed at Millwall, I had that in the early days when I first went there with the West Ham youth team.

They’ve been that way since the 1960s, it must have something to do with living on that side of the River Thames! But seriously, I really wish we could stamp that out completely. My cliché has always been the ball doesn’t care what colour you are. It’s high time that fans all over the world accept that football is a world game and nobody has a hold on it. It’s a beautiful game and lets continue to let it be that and now allow these hooligans to go to games just to throw racist chants at the players.

I’m glad to see a fan has been charged and we need to take stances like that. You can ask my teammates what I had to go through, it’s a good thing I was strong enough to withstand it. If you are not a strong person it can really sink you and no one should have to be subjected to that sort of behaviour.

My experiences at Millwall were playing there in the youth team and the abuse we used to get was terrible. I’ll always remember our youth coach John Lyall getting into our heads and urging us to put that behind us and not to let it interfere with our game. Another black player Clive Charles and I went through the wringer most times when we played away from home in them days. There were lots of grounds, practically every ground we went to we were taunted.

You have to show them you can play, it’s very hard to ignore the abuse but you have to do it. I’m sure alcohol plays a part because it is a big social event and a lot of them take their frustrations out on the players, it’s their way of getting it out, by calling people names and abusing them.

I suppose it is getting better, but I get tired of hearing about racial abuse in this day and age. I thought we had gone past it in the 60s, but now it’s 2013 and it seems like it is rearing its head again. Lets hope the associations and FIFA can come together and get this things quashed forever. We probably will need to put forums on where people can speak about it and what better people to have involved than those who have been abused week in and week out.

It is not just England but is happening in other parts of the world too. Your skin doesn’t make you a decent person, it’s your heart and your mind that makes you a decent person. It needs to be taught at an early age, the clubs need to get people in to talk to the young players to make them aware, governments needs to get involved in the fight against racism to make people understand that you can’t go through life doing that sort of stuff to people.

Manchester United got a gigantic result against Real Madrid in the Champions League this week, going to Bernabeu and getting a 1-1 draw. If anybody can do it Alex Ferguson can. He’s been around so long, he understands football and I thought he did a masterful job. They got exactly what they wanted and now they’ve got to go back to Old Trafford next month and finish the job. Now it’s up to Real Madrid, they’ve got to come and play and win at Old Trafford, which not many teams do.

United are a beacon of a club, not just in England but worldwide. They win trophies and that’s what football is all about. Speaking about trophies, it looks like they will be winning their 20th league title in the next couple of months after opening up a 12 point league over Manchester City in the Premier League with 12 games remaining. In fact, I think United have the title right now, I can’t see City hauling down the 12 points, it’s too many. I can’t see United losing three or four games.

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Published Feb 16, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated Feb 15, 2013 at 4:18 pm)

Time for football to quash racism for good

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