England under-20 race focus is just a mountain out of a molehill

Rio Ferdinand hit out at England's Under 20 management team, after images emerged of their black and white players eating on different tables and exercising separately, in his column for The Sun.

‘When I saw a picture at the weekend of the England Under-20s in Toulon with all the black players on one table and whites on the other, I have to be honest, it shocked me.’

The pictures emerged in a Daily Mail article entitled: ‘what do these photos tell us about race in Britain today?

Now lets be clear that Ben Douglas, the author of the piece, points out that racism is not at play in any way shape or form. What he argues is that society automatically divides itself on racial grounds.

‘Look at playgrounds and parks, youth clubs and nightclubs and you will see this pattern repeated time and again. Whites will socialise with whites, blacks with blacks, and Asians with Asians. They effectively segregate themselves.’

The reason behind this? Multiculturalism.

‘This fashionable dogma is obsessed with instilling respect for diversity and celebrating different groups’ beliefs and traditions. The result has been not, as was hoped, a society in which people of various backgrounds mix freely but one made up too often of separate communities.

Could it be that in the process of respecting the differences between us all, we are — inadvertently — quietly reinforcing cultural barriers which separate black and white?’

Football has made a great effort into eradicating racism and promoting racial diversity, which is why these pictures have become a talking point. However, there is a danger, which I think applies in this case, that we are becoming too focused on race when it really isn’t a problem.

Race has become such a prominent issue, let’s not forget that Suarez versus Evra and Terry versus the Ferdinand’s are fairly recent events, that sometimes people will look at a scenario and immediately scream racial segregation. These pictures for example.

The fact of the matter is that, in a group, people will tend to stick with people where they have something in common. For example, I was on a recent fencing trip as part of a Scotland team. Scotland tend to stick with Scotland, England with England and so on.

In amongst that I tended to hang out with the people that go to the same university as me, because we have something in common and we see each other most days. It’s also worth pointing out that one of them is of an Asian background.

People don’t separate in terms of race, just in terms of common interests, experiences and things that you can relate to with one another.

Don’t get me wrong the fight against racism is far from over in football. But these pictures are not an issue in any way shape or form. It’s just a group of footballers having dinner, exercising with their mates.

Rio Ferdinand targeted the under 20s management team in his column for the pictures but for a management to effectively force different races to mix with one another for a photo opportunity is, quite frankly, an absurd issue to have to face.

When I first saw the images racial divide never even crossed my mind. Do they look happy? Yes. Do they look like they’re working well together? Yes.

These are what should be taken from these. England teams of the past were seriously divided based on what team you played for. These days we have more harmonious squads than ever before.

Not everything is based on race you know.

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