Opinion: Is Football a beautiful game?
Racism by definition is prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race, based on the belief that one's own race is superior. Ideally, a societal evil like this should not exist in the beautiful sport of football. Yet we see that many players today face a lot of schtick for their colour.
Although the FA has made efforts to eradicate it from the game of football over the years, accounts of racism in the sport has reduced but it isn't gone. Back in 2015, Chelsea fans were seen pushing a black man out of the subway, chanting racist curses at him and singing songs of how proud they were to be racist. The club did take action against them but everyone seemed to miss the point.
Recently, in the clash between Manchester City and Chelsea, racist curses were directed at Raheem Sterling. During the fierce North London Derby between Arsenal and Tottenham, a banana peel was aimed at Gabon international Aubameyang.
Sterling was incredibly calm during the match itself, taking to Instagram to shed light on this matter. This has gotten people to take a step back and look at things the way they are. It is time we accept its presence in the sport and educate masses about this evil, empower those who need it and vilify those who have been charged against it. Sterling took a stand against it and that has gotten the entire league talking about it.
Going back to Euro 2016, when England collapsed as a team, Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling, both had a poor showing and did not score. However, the latter was seemed to take the fall for England's early exit. Even so, Sterling, one of the fastest athletes in the league, has been targeted for his certain way. Chants around stadiums of him ‘running like a girl’ are really distasteful.
All of this hate towards him began when he chose to leave Liverpool and switch to Manchester City because he thought he'd be more successful. Since he jumped ship he has won the Premier League with one of the greatest sides in the league's history and two league cups, while Liverpool doesn't have much to show for.
When he bought his mother a house, the next morning Sun reporter, Richard Smith wrote
"Football fans across England are in mourning and he's showing off a diamond-encrusted bathroom. Some fans will never forgive him for this. It's a disgrace."
Is it really? Sterling was raised in Jamaica by a single mother. She brought him to England to give him a better life. He made it big and as a small thank you, he bought his mother a luxurious house, but that too was looked down upon.
Many players of colour have been targetted for their spendings while white players have never received this kind of treatment. Tosin Adarabioyo bought his mother a house but that was conveniently left out of the headlines. Instead, the Daily Mail reported the following headline.
Young Manchester City footballer, 20, on £25,000 a week splashes out on mansion on market for £2.25million despite having never started a Premier League match
While on the other hand when Phil Foden did the same, it was lauded and praised for spending on his family rather than on flashy cars or jewellery.
As much as English football prides itself for being racism-free, these little things affect the minds of young black players coming through the ranks. At every turn, some journalist or reporter seems to be waiting for them to slip up so that he can come up with a piece that catches attention.
What is happening to Sterling and other black players is sad. As much as arrests and stadium ban was given to the fans matter, it is more important to educate fans who were besides these hooligans for just watching and not stopping and correcting them. Until then racism will be prevalent in the modern game.
The abuse received by these players is indirectly a message from middle-class, middle-aged white men telling successful black men to essentially "know their place".
Worded perfectly by Maurice Mcleod in his article for the Guardian:
The routes out of poverty are very scarce for the young, working-class black man. Sport, music and entertainment do provide a path for the select few. The narrative reserved for those who make it, though, often sounds a lot like, “We have let you in, now don’t do anything that makes us regret it”.
Most players come from very humble homes and once they've made it big, look to give back to those who helped them the most in their journey. They are an inspiration to other people with similar conditions that there is a way to a better life. Instead of constantly bashing these players, they should be celebrated like heroes as they show many others a path out of their misery.
Let's make this sport beautiful again.