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.

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