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Sport Watch

Racism rears its ugly head

By Quazi Zulquarnain Islam

It's difficult to know where to start this week, but it might be nice to actually begin by talking about football, or to be more specific, one of the problems related to football.

In late November 2004, after a friendly international between Spain and England, Spanish newspaper Marca wrote, “After a sad and farcical week in which an allegedly friendly international fixture between two countries turned into a major international row, the bi-annual sparring match between two of the world's most famous teams turned out to be a decent game…”

The game that they went on to talk about was a Barca versus Real el clasico. But that is not what we concern ourselves with. What is important is the alleged friendly international that they were referring to.

The real talking point of that week of football had been and consequently has been the post-Bernabéu racism issue. It's difficult to add anything hugely significant to the thousands of column inches already written about this whole sorry episode, but there are one or two points that have been missed along the way. What that night at Real's home ground did though was bring the issue of racism into a truly global light.

The main problem is surely that the campaign 'Let's kick racism out of football' should read - in an Utopian world- 'Let's kick racism out of society'.

Laudable though the English initiative was in bringing the racism-football slogan to Spain for the game last week, its presence raised the issue of to what extent sport should really be the focus for a cancer that eats away at society, not football.

We can debate for weeks and weeks as to whether there is monkey chanting in Spanish stadiums and you can interview a couple of black players in La Liga to tell you that they suffer racist taunts every week ex-Valencia starlet Sissoko, for example, said this - but in the end the whole issue boils down to whether you are accusing Spain of being a racist country or not.

Or to put it into context, a more racist country than England. By wearing the anti-racism shirts and obliging the Spanish to join in the condemnation before the game, the England players' implicit message, sparked off by Luis Aragonés' ridiculous phrase about Thierry Henry, was that they came from a land of greater moral conscience. That may well be true. It's not for me to say.

So lets not get into that.

And please do not throw back the customary reply that it was only a minority of fans doing it, because this does not make it any more acceptable.

It is prevalent in Italy as well as one player once broke into tears at being racially abused. The Stadio Olimpicio in Rome has to be one of the main culprits; the sheer amount of trouble in the last couple of years alone has proved that., as matches often turned into a display of banners and abuse that had little to do with football and common sense.

And Spain is still the only place in Europe where swastikas still flourish on the terraces - less than before it has to be said, but they are still around.

What does that say about the clubs involved? And those people - many of them ordinary folks it would seem - who thought it was fun to make the monkey noises in the Bernabéu should basically go home and take a good look at themselves in the mirror. As should everyone, from time to time.

Racism exists, unfortunately. It's what you do about it that counts.

An Italian saying goes 'molta carne al fuoco'; meaning there are many issues deserving of attention at the same time.

Stopping racism is undoubtedly chief amongst it.
So lets stand united and “KICK RACISM OUT OF FOOTBALL and SOCIETY!”


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