Calling all race police: please start your engines
November 4 will be upon us before we know it. That date is significant in that it will be the first public holiday in Bermuda to recognise the contributions that Portuguese have made to these islands over the past 170 years. Without question, there have been many.
But before we get caught up in the pomp and pageantry of the first of back-to-back long weekends, and reach into the archives to celebrate all things Portuguese, there is a bit of unfinished business that needs tending to — some might say exposing.
On October 6, 17 days ago, a second-tier football match grabbed the headlines when otherwise it might have been but a footnote.
In the First Division fixture between Young Men’s Social Club and Vasco da Gama at Bernard Park, a spectator by the name of Miguel Pereira verbally abused referee Antoine Augustus. We know this because Vasco identified him as a former club president, and because Pereira himself went on a radio talk show to publicly apologise to the referee.
But there is more.
At least one Social Club player has alleged that he was racially abused and took to social media to vehemently state his case.
This came after it was reported that there was a disturbance outside the Vasco dressing room. There can be no correlation between that and the incident involving Pereira, who by that time had been escorted from the premises on Dutton Avenue in Pembroke.
Vasco have said and done all the right things since the controversy: first in exonerating Pereira of using racially offensive language and then with an antiracism initiative in which its players donned “No to Racism” warm-up shirts, with similar messages on placards dotted around the ground.
But what has gone unsaid is the result of this “internal investigation” that was launched two weeks ago yesterday.
Social Club, meanwhile, have said nothing at all, but it is understood the Angle Street club has filed an official complaint to the Bermuda Football Association.
The day after the incident, the BFA said: “We are aware of inappropriate behaviour towards the referee and a full investigation is under way by the BFA.
“Statements have been taken from referees’ reports and other witnesses. There will be no further comment as of yet while the investigation is ongoing but we stress that the BFA are taking this matter extremely seriously and do not tolerate inappropriate behaviour towards the officials.”
That was 15 days ago. Since then? Crickets.
If you wish to give the governing body the benefit of the doubt for being slow to act on what is already a highly sensitive issue, it has been distracted by the fuss around the men’s national team during its run in the Concacaf Nations League and the logistics of hosting regional powerhouse Mexico on October 11.
But Mexico have come and gone for almost a fortnight now, and — apart from the inevitability of a banning order on Miguel Pereira — we are no closer to determining if a Vasco player or official has a case to answer for racist abuse, or if Social Club blew a heated moment out of all proportion and pulled the race card.
Contrast this picture with what is happening off our shores and how instant the response is to occasions of overt racism.
Take how quickly Chelsea identified the supporters who racially abused Raheem Sterling, the Manchester City forward, during an English Premier League match at Stamford Bridge last season — ultimately banning six, including one for life.
Or the reaction after England players were abused on international duty in Bulgaria this month.
Or how soon it took Somerset Police to locate and arrest the goons who abused the Haringey football team’s Nigerian goalkeeper during the FA Cup tie in Yeovil on Saturday, leading to the non-League team walking off the pitch in protest.
Real-time actions necessitate a real-time response — it is not enough for local authorities to roll out bland appeasements and then allow the matter to fade from public consciousness. Not in a country where the issue of race is as thorny as the least manicured rosebed.
But then again, what we are witnessing could be nothing more than par for the course in the realms of sporting organisations’ laxness with immediacy.
After all, we are still awaiting confirmation of the 2019 Cup Match MVP, and that match ended almost three months ago.
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