In 2021, racism remains rife in football.
Even in this day and age, the beautiful game is not without the disgusting stain of racial discrimination. This season alone, there have been incidents in the Premier League, Swiss Super League, La Liga, Ligue 1, the Champions League, the Europa League: the list could go on.
The issue of racism in football is nothing new, proving to be much worse in the past. But just because it has ‘improved’, that does not mean that it does not still persist. It is just as prevalent, common and devastating as it was 50 years ago.
As a football fan, it is infuriating. As a person of colour, it is painful.
In the last year alone, we have seen so much progress. The murder of George Floyd led to the Premier League preceding all matches by taking the knee, a powerful statement which continues to this day. Shirts adorn a ‘No Room for Racism’ patch, with more awareness than ever raised within the game through the Black Lives Matter movement.
Yet players are still racially abused.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, Callum Robinson, Mouctar Diakhaby, Aldo Kalulu. All of them received racist abuse in the last week, all because of a game. A simple game.
It feels as if, for every encouraging step we take forward in forcing racism out of the game, we take three steps backwards. Not a week goes by now without players receiving racist comments on social media, or even on the pitch from opposing players.
There is no change without action, and fortunately for football, action is being taken.
Clubs are taking a strong stance, sending out firm no-tolerance statements. Whether it be Chelsea’s ‘No to Hate’ programme, Manchester United’s ‘SEE RED’ campaign or Rangers and Swansea City’s social media boycotts, these clubs are setting an example to the rest, showing the power they can have as football institutions to fight racism.
So much encouraging work is being done, and we seem closer to kicking racism out of the game than ever before. But it is not enough.
“In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be antiracist.”Angela Davis
The key to eradicating racism is action on a grand scale- collaborative action from everyone involved in the game. Clubs, players, authorities and media outlets alike must all join together for a common goal: kicking racism out of the sport for good.
That may seem like what is currently going on, but is it really everyone? Many clubs are noticeably playing their part, alongside news organisations like Sky Sports promoting their anti-discrimination campaign.
But in an issue so poignant, the silence of the few is more deafening than the noise.
Football is the sporting microcosm of society, and its battle with racism is a shared societal one. The sport has come together time after time to fight for imperative issues, supporting each other and binding together in times of need. After all, why do we so affectionately call it the beautiful game?
Yet, there are still many in the football industry not fighting the fight. They either do nothing or, worst of all, performative action. That is not good enough. That will never change anything, not today nor tomorrow. Action taken has to be meaningful, impactful and significant, something that will actually leave a mark on the game.
Racism can be eliminated from football – and one day society – but everyone has a part to play. Regardless of skin colour, religion, ethnicity, sexuality or gender, this is a poison affecting us all. We must all be striving to be anti-racist, promoting equality and condemning discrimination in every form.
Collaboration must happen on all levels: from the pitch to the boardroom to the stands to the studio. We must think together, work together and act together, regardless of any borders which may divide us.
There must be more accountability and criminalisation involved, bringing abusers to justice and supporting victims more than ever. After all, we are all just humans, and integrating punishment, education and support is vital.
It is possible, and one can hope to live to a day where racism does not exist anymore. One day, we may see a pure version of football, without racism or discrimination or hate. Just the beautiful game in its most beautiful form.
The battle ensues, the fight continues, but if we all work together, we can live up to our shared goal: to kick racism out of football.
Enjoy my work? Consider donating!
If you like reading my articles, I would greatly appreciate any donations you can afford. Thank you for all of your incredible support!