Feature

Overcoming racism in the stands

Only when European soccer clubs begin to &ldquo;impose meaningful sanctions&rdquo; on the racists in their midst will they rid themselves of a great ugliness in their game, said Matt Dickinson<strong> </strong>in <em>T

Matt DickinsonThe Times

British soccer fans are much less racist than fans in the rest of Europe, said Matt Dickinson. That may be a backhanded compliment, since it concedes that there is still some racism in our game. But we’ve come a long way. Fully one-third of English players are black, including some of the most revered. Gone are the days when a black player could count on being “pelted with banana after banana” by fans of his own team, or hear those fans taunt him by hooting like a monkey every time he came onto the field. “It is now the exception rather than the norm to hear racial abuse” in a British arena. In Spain, meanwhile, fans—not just the thugs but “men in smart suits” and “their wives, too”—still produce an “appalling soundtrack of ape sounds.” In Italy, I once “heard abuse so shocking I could scarcely believe my ears”—and coming against the sophisticated backdrop of the Uffizi Gallery, one of the oldest and most famous art museums in the world, “the monkey noises seemed particularly grotesque.” Britain helped its fans renounce racism by cracking down hard on coaches and other players who made racist comments. Only when European clubs begin to “impose meaningful sanctions” on the racists in their midst will they rid themselves of a great ugliness in their game.

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