Monday 23 February 2015

Chelsea racism controversy: I experienced the same thing myself.

The issue of racism in football is in the spotlight again after last week's incident in Paris involving Chelsea fans preventing a black man from getting onto a Paris subway.

As shocking as the scenes might be, there was part of me that wasn't surprised. Anyone who attends football matches on a regular basis will know that every football club has an element within its fan base that are simply idiots.

The other reason why last week's events didn't surprise me was because something very similar happened to me back in the late 90s.

My experience of football racism took place on train travelling back from Stoke to Birmingham. When I got on the carriage it was full of Bristol Rovers fans whose team had been playing away at Macclesfield.

As I was about to take my seat I heard a voice shouting at me. I turned round to hear this guy shout in a thick West Country accent:

"Oi mate, this is a whites only carriage, your lot should be at the other end"

I was so shocked that anyone would have the cheek to say that to me I was almost speechless, the only thing I could muster in response was something like 'Oh really'.

It was one of those moments when looking back I wish I had some witty withering put down to come back with but you never do in these situations. When I did sit down I was fuming but what realistically could I do? Turn into some old skool hooligan, a terrace legend and takes on a coach load of Rovers fans. Not exactly, I just had to take it. I can definitely empathize with the black guy who was abused by Chelsea fans. Sadly back in the 90s we didn't have filming equipment on phones so nobody was there to capture the incident.

People are questioning whether football has a problem with racism and my response is not overly. Football was more racist in the 70s and 80s because society was more racist.

Racism in football has improved greatly since those days but we don't live in a society where racism doesn't exist and it's naive and wishful thinking to think football can exist in a separate bubble from the rest of society.

Football along with many sports can encourage greater tolerance and respect but as a sport it can't be expected to lead the fight to eradicate racism from all walks of life in British society.

Back in the 80s Chelsea fans had a notorious reputation for racism. It's ironic that in the last 10 years Chelsea have experienced the greatest period of success in their history. That success has been achieved through the exploits of many black players most notably Didier Drogba.

Sadly that type of irony is lost amongst the stupidity and bigotry that exists amongst those Chelsea fans we saw last week.

Tuesday 3 February 2015

My most popular tweet ever!

Two weeks ago I published the tweet below after seeing a news report on BBC London. It was about residents from the West Hendon estate who are being forced out of their homes due to private developers building new luxury properties.

Watching the report only irritated me. I thought, here's another example of people being forced out of London as affordable social housing is replaced by expensive luxury flats financed by property developers.

Although there are meant to be provisions for affordable social housing in these new developments. The reality is that people on low to average incomes can't afford to live in them and are forced out of their communities.

It's nothing more than a form of social cleansing!

My stats: 634 views, 7 favourites, 1 reply and 22 retweets.

Having moved from the Midlands. One thing I've always loved about living in London, is the incredible mix of people that you encounter. This doesn't just apply to meeting people from different parts of the country or from around the world - it's also the fact people from different backgrounds, and social classes live side by side to each other.

This is slowly being lost as property prices rise to such ridiculous levels that many people can no longer afford to live in London. I really feel for those Londoners who have been born and bred in city, particularly inner London boroughs who are being forced out of their communities.

I'm witnessing this in my own borough of Newham. Since the Olympics in 2012, Stratford has undergone a huge amount of regeneration with loads of new developments being built. Don't get me wrong Stratford has improved massively in the last 7 - 8 years, but none of these new homes around the Olympic stadium are affordable to most Newham residents.

In Stratford there is a campaign group similar to OurWestHendon called Focus 15. The group made up of mothers, occupied a number of flats in Stratford in protest over a US property firm who had taken over their estate and who intended to increase rents. The comedian Russell Brand has been active in supporting them.

This drive for high priced apartments at the cost of affordable property is simply unsustainable. How is a city expected to function if people on low and average wages are forced out of the capital or to London's outskirts and then forced to commute in, to perform the jobs needed for the city to operate?

It seems obvious that my tweet struck a cord with many other people which is why it proved so popular. The fabric and identity of London is slowly being lost as London becomes nothing more than an investment opportunity and playground for overseas property developers.

It's always nice to get a 'like' or 'retweet' on twitter but if feels a lot better when you say something that's of real importance and concern to people and I think this was clearly evident from the response to my tweet.