The Captain: Black, white or shades of grey?
The last week has been dominated by the annual ‘Let’s Kick It Out campaign.’ And, whilst it’s a potent reminder of the need to encourage racial equality in the sport, in truth it’s nothing more than a nominal gesture towards political correctness.
The fact that Jason Roberts, a heralded advocate for the cause, refused to show his support over the weekend should set alarm bells ringing in the ears of organisers.
Along with other high profile ambassadors such as Rio Ferdinand and Joleon Lescott, Roberts chose instead to highlight the fact that the cause does nothing to actually tackle the real problems black players are faced with.
Take for instance the farcical manner in which the FA dealt with John Terry racially abusing Anton Ferdinand. It was dealt with so badly that Terry actually retired from the national game on some sort of moral grounding.
He should never have been given the opportunity to do so; he should have been forced out of the England fold a disgraced man well before the summer Euros ever started.
His punishment for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand was a meagre four game ban, half the amount dished out to Luis Suarez last year- who, lest we forget, was charged with using inflammatory language that contravened the FA’s code of conduct, not the more serious offence of actually abusing another player, as was the case against Terry.
The FA had a chance to set a precedent by throwing the book at him, instead they accommodated his every need by excluding Rio Ferdinand from the national squad for ‘football reasons’ before changing his court hearing date so the Chelsea man could represent England this summer.
The culmination of these events has left many professionals questioning the validity of an anti-racism campaign that does nothing to tackle racism.
Combine that with the abhorrent scenes in Serbia, where our young lions were subjected to a sickening display of racially fuelled hooliganism by players, fans and coaching staff suddenly the issue is no longer a thing of the past.
I, like most viewers was left astounded by the lack of support our black players were given in that game. But I was appalled a few years ago when the same monkey chanting could be heard in a ‘friendly’ match between the senior squad and Spain.
What’s needed is someone with a strong moral compass and a backbone to stand up and say- ‘this is unacceptable.’
It’s all very well to congratulate the players for maintaining an air of professional decorum in the face of disgraceful behaviour, as the U21 manager Stuart Pearce did.
But what I was hoping for, as I was a few years ago with Sven Goran Eriksson, was for Pearce to stand up, walk on the pitch and take his players away from the unnecessarily hostile environment and refuse to complete the match. Then FIFA, UEFA and the FA would be forced into action.
Playing football should be secondary to ensuring black players are given the same platform to perform as white players. It’s a shame that footballing institutions across the globe don’t feel the same.
What do you think? Should Terry's ban have been harsher? Were players right not to wear 'Let's Kick It Out' t-shirts last weekend? Use the comments section below to have your say.