By John Brindley
MANCHESTER CITY and England striker Raheem Sterling has my sympathy for the vile abuse he suffered whilst playing a Premier League match at Chelsea on Saturday – the same amount of sympathy that every other footballer who was verbally attacked up and down the land.
A huge racism storm is currently brewing after Stirling told police officers that a fan shouted ‘f---ing black c---’ in his direction as he was about to take a corner.
Now it’s worth noting that two of those three words are blanked out because they are disgusting and violent forms of language. The other word is a colour which I quote in full because it is neither disgusting nor violent.
The fan who uttered this diatribe ‘should never be allowed near a stadium again’ according to former England striker and now pundit Alan Shearer who is paid huge sums of money most weeks to sit in a TV studio and watch football matches.
Perhaps he should be taken to the Tower of London, thrown out of the country or be hung and quartered whilst we’re at it.
Here’s the irony that is completely lost on a generation dumbed down by political correctness.
Had the same fan merely uttered the same swear words or suffered from a form of colour blindness and called Stirling ‘white’ we would not be embroiled in this controversy.
Football reporters would be talking about the week’s big games, Sterling would be preparing quietly to play for Manchester City, the police might just be looking for criminals and I wouldn’t be writing this article.
Believe me I’m not defending the fan in question. Absolutely not. Naturally his language is totally unacceptable. But should it be a crime? Not in my opinion.
The ridiculous thing is that had the fan threatened to ‘kill’ Stirling, the police would probably have spent far less time, if any, on the matter.
Yet if he labelled the player a ‘black genius’, he’d still presumably be accused of racism for highlighting his colour… or would he?
To understand what is going on here and how we have come to this, we need to think about football culture and the way ‘racism’ is regarded in modern-day Britain in 2018 compared with those apparently awful days when not so many people were offended.
I am a football supporter. Occasionally I utter stupid and ignorant remarks – albeit nothing like this foul tirade. As a keen Nottingham Forest supporter, I’ve sometimes joined in the chant ‘we hate Derby’ – even though I’m unaware of anything they’ve done to deserve it.
Should I hand myself into the local police station and admit I have been involved in a ‘hate crime’.
Or perhaps I should dust myself down, grow up a little and think more before I speak.
As a supporter I know that the main reason Chelsea fans were taking offence at Sterling was because he was playing for their opponents.
They would not be so vicious towards him had he been sporting a Chelsea or England shirt.
They would also be aware that he is a fantastically talented player who might just be about to do something damaging to their team – such as score or create a goal.
The fact that his skin colour is black makes him singles him out only slightly in today’s multi-cultural game. But were he bald or more on the portly side, he may well have been referred to in a different way.
None of this is clever. Infact it’s utterly pathetic. But this is the nature of football.
Had the same fan used the same strained physical expression and roared encouragement to one of his own players taking a corner, he’d probably have been credited for showing passion.
I grew up in an era when racism meant something much different and far more destructive. I am talking about racial discrimination, the idea that someone would act unfairly against someone else because of where they come from and/or the colour of their skin.
In much more recent years I’ve become more and more aware of how the British Empire has and still does destroy the lives of people in other parts of the world.
Yet Shearer and co would sing the national anthem with gusto totally oblivious to all of that.
This sad tale does say a lot about the ignorance that pervades our national sport but it says far more, in my opinion, of how we have become obsessed with ‘labels’.
Political correctness is fast turning us into moral zombies who can’t distinguish between the relatively trivial and the vitally important.
What really matters – a footballer is abused by an ignorant supporter or one million plus die in Iraq partly because Britain thinks it has the moral duty to help reshape the Middle East?
We laugh at the old days, but often because we’ve lost the plot. In times when we had a more accurate perspective, a police officer could perhaps have given the fan a talking to about respect and encouraged him to make a formal apology before taking his seat at the next home game.
This is a storm in a tea cup. An ignorant storm but a relatively minor one nevertheless.
And its cause is not primarily racism at all but political correctness.
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