Has racism returned to football?

The ugly side of the beautiful game reared its head again this weekend, with the England captain accused of racially abusing an opponent, reports Shamik Das.

The ugly side of the beautiful game reared its head again this weekend, with the England captain accused of racially abusing an opponent.

The incident, in which Chelsea’s John Terry allegedly called QPR’s Anton Ferdinand a “****ing black ****”, has been widely viewed on YouTube, and will be the subject of police and FA investigations.

It follows the row last weekend in the wake of Manchester United’s clash with Liverpool, during which Utd left back Patrice Evra said he was racially abused by Liverpool striker Luiz Suarez.

And it comes on the same weekend Barcelona’s Cesc Fabregas was accused of racially abusing Sevilla’s Fredereric Kanoute. The ex-Arsenal midfielder, like Terry and Suarez, denies the claims. 

On the Terry case, today’s Independent reports:

The prospect of the England captain being accused of racism hangs over the game today with Anton Ferdinand expected to ask Queen’s Park Rangers to petition the Football Association to investigate allegations that John Terry abused him during Chelsea’s defeat at Loftus Road on Sunday…

The Independent understands that his inclination is to take the matter further.

Ferdinand and Terry clashed during the match, and afterwards the England captain was accused by television viewers, via Twitter and the internet, of using foul and racist language towards Ferdinand. He put out a statement denying the accusation and stating he and Ferdinand had spoken after the match and “there was no problem between us”.

However, it clearly was not closed as far as Ferdinand was concerned.

As the Indy adds, this is not the first time Terry has faced such allegations:

This is the second time Terry has had to defend himself against an accusation of making racist remarks after it was claimed he had abused Tottenham’s Ledley King in November 2006. Terry, who played junior football with King, denied the claim and no evidence was found to support it.

So how much of a problem is racism on the pitch? And in wider society?

In England, the Terry/Ferdinand and Suarez/Evra rows are rare, hence the huge interest – yet on the Continent, such incidents, sadly, are more commonplace.

In Spain and Italy, the two biggest leagues after the Premier League, there are regular reports of player-on-player racism, fan racism and even manager racism, while in some Eastern European nations, England players have suffered racist chanting from whole swaths of crowds, most recently in Bulgaria earlier this month.

Anti-Semitism is also rife in Eastern European football; only last month, Legia Warsaw fans displayed a “Jihad” banner during a Europa League group match against Hapoel Tel Aviv, prompting anti-racism campaigner Rafal Pankowski to comment:

“Some Legia fans have been known for anti-Semitic and extreme-right behaviour for years and they had a chance to express their hatred of Jews again when Legia played an Israeli team, this time adopting a pseudo-Islamist guise.”


“This is yet another case of anti-Semitic behaviour by extremist groups active in Polish football stadiums, and it could have been predicted.”

With Poland jointly hosting next summer’s European Championships, this incident, together with widespread hooliganism, racism and domestic anti-Semitism, will trouble fans and players – and should trouble UEFA, who have yet to take firm action against racist abuse of black players in Europe, particularly Eastern Europe, down the years.

There will also be concern at the racism witnessed in Russian football, ahead of Russia’s hosting of the 2018 World Cup.

Back to Britain, and on the topic of the wider issue of racism in society, by chance the Runnymede Trust today warned that racism “is still a problem in the UK”, though on the plus side, they say it could be all but ended “in a generation”.

Dr Rob Berkeley, director of Runnymede, said:

“As a country we have made real progress towards ending racism, but challenges still remain in our schools, criminal justice system, and workplaces. Legislation is only part of the answer, so we are asking people in communities up and down the country how we can work together to end racism in a generation.

“We’ve come this far through the common sense and action of British people from different backgrounds. If we have the ambition and will, we can put an end to the tragedy of racism that means people have fewer life chances simply because of the colour of their skin.”

In society, and in football, at home and abroad, it is to be hoped such optimism isn’t too far-fetched.

See also:

No last orders for Sky as sporting stranglehold remainsWill Durnan, October 15th 2011

All eyes on Barcelona as racism rears its ugly head againShamik Das, May 3rd 2011

Let’s hope the World Cup really was the beginning of a better future for South AfricaMark Beacon, July 18th 2010

The new BNP? UKIP stands by racist PPCShamik Das, April 9th 2010

UKIP’s Godfrey Bloom admits to saying “Paki”Will Straw, October 9th 2009

18 Responses to “Has racism returned to football?”

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  3. Political Planet

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  4. Shamik Das

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