Condemning Chelsea's racist fans is easy; kicking racism out altogether is not

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Aboard a Paris metro train a man is blocked from getting on by a group of gurning numbskulls because of the colour of his skin. He speaks to them and tries again. He's shoved back once more and told to move along. It's 2015.

A small group of Chelsea fans are running riot in Paris after watching their side lose to Paris Saint-Germain 3-1, chanting racist slogans and offering neo-Nazi salutes. Cafes and bars are smashed up, English Defence League slogans are hollered. The riot police arrive, but those responsible have scampered off into the night. It's 2014.

"There is no racism in football, if you are good, you are good," Jose Mourinho says. It's October 2014.  "I'm certainly not racist...but look at the Viareggio [youth] tournamentI would say that there are too many black players," says Arrigo Sacchi, the former Italy manager. It's yesterday. 

Football is at war with itself when there's a common enemy lurking just beyond the wall. The cladding of gentrification survives in the game and big business continues to make it a product but at football's core is a very human conundrum, one more complex than a small group of men on a Parisian train. After all, they're easy fodder. How hard is it to condemn them and get on with your day? That doesn't take more than a few seconds.

Video nasty

Last night a group of anonymous white faces were filmed chanting 'we're racist, we're racist and that's the way we like it' on their way to watch Chelsea play Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League at the Parc des Prince. Incidentally they were Chelsea fans, but that doesn't matter.

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It was then that the man was blocked from boarding the train because he was black. Presumably he was French. He was blocked by Englishmen from boarding a train in his own country, while on the way to see a game that, amongst many things was a festival of diversity, as most games are these days.

Their own team had more Spaniards and the same number of Belgians as English players. Three black players pulled on a blue shirt to play for a Portuguese manager who answers to a Russian boss. 


Chelsea have spoken publicly of their dismay over the matter, as have UEFA, while French police will investigate and hopefully prosecute. There's no point in saying there's no room for such a thing in football because that would make two false assumptions; one, that there is room for it elsewhere and that football exists in a Mourinho-esque bubble that the problems of the world can't seep into. Maybe he should stick around for the end-of-game handshakes more often to see how many faces of colour different to his own he encounters.

But we live in a turbulent divided time, where the 1% keep their nose in the trough while the rest struggle on through a Thatcherite-inspired Cameron life. Fear of the unknown is the greatest currency. The wealth divide between the haves and the have-nots is approaching record levels, yet still the over 3,000 government officials hounds out £1.2 billion worth of benefit fraud while a mere 300 chase £70 billion worth of big business tax evasion. Which is the reprehensible State leech again? 

In 2013, 112,070 people declared themselves homeless in England – a 26% increase in four years. At the same time, the number of people sleeping rough in London grew by 75% to a staggering 6,437. £7 billion was cut in housing benefit, and still the people are the target.


Last but not least is racism which, as subtle as it sometimes is or, in the case of last night, isn't, still exists. In most facets of English life we are driven apart and divided, pressure coming from the top down to separate Those Who Belong and Those Who Don't. We live in a country were the far right have gained greater prominence than at any point over the past 50 years, maybe even more.

The Everyday Sexism campaign was launched by Laura Bates in 2012 in an attempt to combat the more subtle forms of sexism, not the Sid James honking and wolf whistles that are so easy to admonish, and it's a wonder that a similar campaign about racism hasn't garnered greater support. Laura says she was stunned by the horror stories she heard, but more surprised by the hate mail when she first started. Mention racism in football on Twitter, and you're more likely to be accused of club bias than a remark on how the issue has no affiliation, that we are together as one.

Although it is of course welcome that the great and good of world football come together to say 'No To Racism', ultimately it's pointless because saying no to racism is easy. Saying it's bad is easy. Admitting there is a bigger, more subtle problem that is driven by unfounded fear and manifests itself in your subconscious, that's the difficult part.

John Barnes came closest to hitting the nail on the head when in 2013 he described this country as 'unconsciously racist'. He continued: "In this society when tens of thousands of Black people die, there is not the same collective outrage if hundreds of white people were killed". 

Hidden from view

The men on the train last night are brazen; they are The Sun newspaper. You know what you're getting. However this is a Daily Telegraph world were prejudice is slipped in through the backdoor under the guise of patriotism and respectability. It's much more of a difficult attitude to spot but it's just as much of a problem as those on the train, perhaps even more so. You can push the fans from last night to the side, marginalise them and insist they're not real 'fans' but they are.

There is no difference between football and the real world, they are the same thing. People, plagued by their own nature and fears, are football fans, as are those from different backgrounds. Supporting a club is merely a superficial label, and one that usually acts as a unifier, regardless of skin colour. This isn't a football issue, or even a cultural one, it's a human problem.

Fine mess

The Partizan Belgrade fans carrying the anti-Semitic banner during their Europa League game last year aren't the whole problem, UEFA's limp-wristed response is too - and there are a hundred of examples like that were the punishment comes nowhere near to the £80,000 Nicklas Bendtner for wearing branded pants in Denmark's game against Portugal. 

2015 racism is the lack of black managers, not black players blocked from the game like it was before. 2015 racism is a lack of representation amongst Asian players, not taunts from the terraces. 2015 racism is the typecasting of African players as strong and powerful, but lacking intelligence. 2015 racism is Champions League and FA Cup winning coach Eddie Newton failing to find a managerial job at any level. 2015 racism is Gordon Taylor describing racism as a 'hidden problem' when it's clear for all to see.


Just before Christmas I was standing outside a shop in Essex, waiting for a friend to arrive. A man approached me for the time and we got talking. I asked him where he was from. He told me London. He followed up his response with something I won't forget for a while.

"But I'm moving down here. Too many fucking black people there now," he said. I stood there, stunned as my stomach lurched. Like those on the platform last night, I said nothing and he walked away without his view being challenged. That's 2015 racism.

What do you think should happen to the Chelsea fans in the video?

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