David Preece: It’s time to take meaningful action - until racism is dead

What a world we live in, eh? Where truth and lies are now treated with the same amount of disbelief.

Friday, 18th October 2019, 6:00 pm
Updated Friday, 18th October 2019, 6:00 pm
England v Bulgaria

A world where the opinions of scientists are eyed with suspicion, the views of experts are rubbished and the deluded have bluffed their way right to the top. What an absolute mess we’re in.

So given that state of affairs, why wouldn’t racism and hate be on the rise, as it so very clearly is?

How are kids growing up these days supposed to know wrong from right? At least we were shown the dividing lines between the two, then given the choice which side of it you wanted to put yourself in any given situation.

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If you were doing wrong, you knew and the same with the consequences coming your way. Now? Facts are almost irrelevance that can be swatted away with a denial as if it was a bad smell.

And this is probably what gets to me most. In the past, when you were lied to by governments or officials, at least they were good at it and kept straight faces.

These days, people like Priti Patel and Boris Johnson snigger as they spoon-feed you their myopic policies.

In some countries, like Bulgaria, this “return” of racism may not seem so marked, for we can rightly ask if it ever receded at all. It never went away in our our society, one which has made a colossal effort to rid itself of societal barriers, so why should we expect others to have made more ground on the matter?

Of course, we can question whether that effort in our own backyard has been pointed in the right direction or dealt with as strongly as it should, but the effort is there.

What doesn’t help the situation in Bulgaria are the people in places of prominence, like Bulgaria’s manager Krasimir Balakov, whose Trumpian-style tactics or denial simply empower the racists in the stand. It supports them in thinking they aren’t doing wrong.

By turning a blind eye to what was clearly occurring, what you are saying is “The problem is with the black players, not the racists”, as if they are exhibiting an over-sensitive reaction to what is merely harmless animal noises.

Some might joke that Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson were kings of selective vision, but the difference between pretending to not see a foul and not hearing monkey chants that were audible to everyone else in the stadium are worlds apart.

One excites laughs of derision towards the denier and the other brings shame on the whole country. Even the reaction of some of the Bulgarian journalists towards Gareth Southgate tells you that the problem isn’t just a football one.

Of course it never is just football. Football is just one outlet with which those racists air their hatred.

Now though, finally, we are moving towards the right kind of sanctions in dealing with racist football fans by removing those countries who express racist views from competitions.

I understand the perspective of the players who wanted to play on when asked at half time, because their mindset is one of retribution through football by inflicting as big a defeat as possible on their opponents and in their minds, not allowing the racists to win by allowing them to affect them. An admirable stance, but it shouldn’t have been left down to the players.

It should have been Gareth Southgate and the hierarchy at the FA who took responsibility for their players and drew a line in the sand, saying we will not tolerate this any longer. To refuse to play under those circumstances would begin the process of intolerance towards the intolerant.

Forget about three stage warnings and protocols, and influence society in a positive way.

If footballers are so influential in their pushed-upon role model status, start using football as a serious vehicle for change. Take actions regardless of consequences and put the ball of responsibility for real progress into the court of UEFA and FIFA.

Put ourselves at the forefront of humanity for humanity’s sake and take the players off the pitch until we see that change. Until that is done, then everyone at the FA, UEFA, FIFA and in every position of power in the game are allowing racism to incubate and grow.

It’s time to put an end to the rhetoric, there aren’t any words left unsaid. It’s time to take meaningful action, until racism is dead.