Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 26th 2015 Contents itself is an athletic meritocracy. It is in its
pure form the opposite of racism, an activity
that tells you repeatedly that human beings
are equal, that what marks us out are the
qualities that cut across race: talent, heart,
teamwork. Similarly the basic idea of a
football club stands as a force for collec-
tivism and shared purpose."
And yet, a friend of mine told me how
he "used to watch England in the mid
1980s and some Chelsea fans refused to
acknowledge John Barnes. If he scored, it
didn t count."
Chelsea aren t the only club. Even at
middle class cosmopolitan Arsenal I ve
heard anti-semetic songs about burning
and gassing Jews. At Millwall, Leeds and
West Ham racism refuses to go away. But
I don t blame society---most societies have
dealt with racism (by criminalising it).
Football hasn t dealt with its racism prob-
lem. Jack Warner s inglorious time spent
as FIFA vice-president could have been so
much better served. Perhaps he reflects
on that with some regret while he counts
Souleymayne S knew what was hap-
pening to him in his own city, but he didn t
know why. His bravery in facing up to the
thugs was astonishing. Now it s time for
football s spineless authorities to face the
problem head on.
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, February 26, 2015
The flag which adorns this column every week
is rarely flown in Britain, despite being much loved
by Brits. You don t see Brits draped in red, white
and blue, like you see Trinis draped in red, white
and black. Last week on the Paris Metro we were
Men like those racist Chelsea supporters make
us ashamed of our country. We are shamed by asso-
ciation and our shame was broadcast around the
As well as shoving the black Parisian man, Souley-
mayne S, off a train; Chelsea imbeciles also smashed
up cafes near the river Seine, attacked French fans
and gave Nazi salutes (just in case their "we re
racist, that s the way we like it," chants hadn t hur-
dled the language barrier.)
I detest Chelsea more than any football club in
the world. I used to detest them because of their
racist, violent fans. Now it s because their racist,
violent fans have a billionaire owner, a European
Cup, the best manager in the game, and countless
As I regularly told a junior reporter (and Chelsea
fan) on the sports desk at the Trinidad Guardian,
there aren t any fans less deserving of these riches.
That they have picked up a new global following
and a slick PR machine offends my very soul. I ve
asked the 18-year-old reporter if he s ever heard of
Ken Bates, the chairman who bought Chelsea Foot-
ball Club for £1 in 1982 and tried to erect electric
fences to prevent their hooligans swarming on to
the pitch (a pitch ringed by a muddy greyhound
track and cars parked behind the goals---a complete
shambles of a ground).
He had not heard of Ken Bates. Nor the Chelsea
Headhunters hooligan firm whose members left
KKK calling cards with their victims. He hadn t
heard of a Chelsea smile where somebody s mouth
would be slit in the corners, leaving a Joker like
scar. He hadn t heard of Paul Canoville, the black
Chelsea player (now an ambassador for the club)
who made his debut also in 1982. An inauspicious
start which he described in his own words:
"As I ran down the line, I heard the abuse for
the first time. You black c---, you golliwog . Go
back home you nigger. I expected it on the street,
but not in a professional stadium. A lot of the
Chelsea fans were doing it, jeering, throwing
bananas. As I got on, I swear to God I wanted to
come straight off."
Canoville spoke last week about the Paris incident
and how it had blighted the hard work Chelsea FC
has done to combat racism. Personally I would like
to hear from Didier Drogba and some of the other
black Chelsea legends: Ruud Gullit, Michael Essien,
Ashley Cole, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink...
Their embarrassment must be excruciating.
Indeed, it s astonishing that a club with such a rep-
utation has been blessed with these players.
Drogba, supposedly a hero of these racists---the
man who won them the European Cup---was born
in Abidjan in Ivory Coast but grew up mostly in
the Paris suburbs. If he hadn t excelled at football,
he could have been Soulemayne S trying to board
that train on the platform. I would love to hear his
response to these bogus supporters. But modern
footballers rarely speak about sensitive issues.
In the days after Paris, the debate was framed
around three questions: Was this a societal problem
(as Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger suggested),
a football problem or a Chelsea problem?
The simple answer is that football is the problem.
No other sport needs anti-racism campaigns. No
other sport has clubs with visible, vocal extreme
right wing presences. No other sport has the same
potential for recruiting young, impressionable men
into fascist movements. Football is a quite unique
and enduring breeding ground for racism and it s
puzzling to people who love the game. It s puzzling
that Pele, the world s greatest ever player and a
black man, has to front anti-hate campaigns.
As Barney Ronay wrote in The Guardian, "Football
Football is the problem, not society
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