The Long Ball Tactic

More than a game?

Posted in Uncategorized by mike on February 11, 2012

I get sick to death of football sometimes. From the selling off of the game to Sky, to the leach-like owners increasing ticket prices while using clubs to pay off debts, I sometimes wonder why I still give a shit when 3pm on a Saturday rolls around. It borders on the irrational and it can’t be good for my mental wellbeing.

The Evra/Suarez affair has almost tried my patience to the max. If it had merely been a case of Suarez saying something he shouldn’t have and swiftly apologising, that would have been one thing. The most sickening element is how racism has now been pulled into the mechanisms of Premier League football. For fans who defend Suarez, this isn’t merely about a man being wrongly accused of something (or though how you can be ‘wrongly accused’ of something you admit saying, I’m not sure), this is another manifestation of the Liverpool and Manchester United rivalry.

This has become so tribal as to be nonsensical. It seems people stand by Suarez because to do otherwise would be to concede that Evra is right, and that would be unthinkable due to the team he plays for. And so we get the perverse situation where Evra – a man who has reported the fact he has been racially abused, ie. done nothing wrong whatsoever – gets abuse from Liverpool fans. If I was a black footballer, would I feel more or less comfortable about speaking out about racism now? Almost certainly the latter.

This tribal mentality, that prevents football fans from stepping away from the game and seeing racism for what it is, hasn’t been left on the terraces. The fans have been ably egged on by the team’s manager. Dalglish’s attitude that Suarez did nothing wrong and shouldn’t have been banned at all is a disgrace and brings a huge amount of disrepute to a club I’ve personally always thought to be built on football’s best traditions and principles.

With the rise of the EDL and many people seeking easy solutions for the nation’s problems (namely blaming it on them immigrants) football should be doing all it can to say racism is bollocks. You’d think this would be an easy task given Premier League football’s manifestly multicultural nature, but it’s been made a whole lot harder by the attitudes of Liverpool and Dalglish. Instead of saying ‘kick it out’, Liverpool are saying ‘there are some occasions where racism could be deemed acceptable’.

You can already see the effects of this if you go on Twitter and search for Patrice Evra’s name and any racial slur you can think of. It seems the racists have leapt upon this and skewed the club’s line from ‘Luis is innocent’ to ‘Luis was right to racially insult a black man’. Unfortunately, this sort of attitude will continue to pervade unless we have a real zero tolerance approach to racism. Teams and fans shouldn’t be looking for excuses for it (“it’s acceptable in Uruguay”? please).

One thing that plays on my mind is how people would react if the roles were reversed, if, say, a Man Utd player had racially abused a Liverpool player. Would Liverpool fans attitude still be the same? Or would they be calling for the Man Utd player to be kicked out of the game? It seems the natural reaction is just to stand up for the multi-millionaire wearing the shirt of the team you support, no matter what.

Fans need to step away from the grotty world of football and see that racism can’t ever be excused or defended. It’s a lot bigger than a bullshit football rivalry and should be addressed as such.


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