Disappointed, but no real complaints about the defeat at Chelsea this weekend. We didn’t produce our best football and the Chelsea winner was genuine class; but something else is starting to leave a really nasty taste in my mouth. During the game, Rio Ferdinand was, as has been regularly the case recently, booed from all Chelsea sections of the ground purely because he has a brother who complained, with total justification, to have been on the receiving end of racial abuse from John Terry.
Rewind to those England fans last weekend. You could expect them, at a push, to direct their ire at Rio’s refusal to join up with the squad and write it off as yet another example of anti-United envy, but by choosing to chuck Anton onto the bonfire with them their little song transformed itself into a call for an old-style southern lynching. Taken together, the England chants and the Chelsea boos amount to nothing less than racism, pure and simple. Roy Hodgson’s refusal, when invited, to condemn the chants was the kind of weak response to such things that works just as well as a green light.
We can turn our backs and pretend to ourselves its demons were cast out years ago, but racism, I’m afraid, is back in English football and its nasty virus will continue to spread until someone closely involved with those perpetrating it has the guts to stand up to them – someone like Hodgson or Benitez who’s prepared to condemn the supporters and make it clear that neither club nor country finds the chants in any way acceptable. It’s the absence of any such uncompromising response that’s fanning the flames of what, before we know it, will be a fire it won’t be easy to get under control.
It all started, inevitably, with our friends at the other end of the East Lancs Road. Liverpool’s failure to condemn Luis Suarez’s racist language towards Patrice Evra was borne of weakness rather than institutional racism, but its effects were the same: gangs of youths roaming the city’s black communities in Suarez masks, thousands of abusive tweets to Kick Racism Out Of Football, the shouting of the word ‘Evra’ at random black people. It unleashed a latent racism that, let’s not kid ourselves, is thankfully largely absent from our grounds these days not because there are no racists present but because the rest of us have successfully made our repugnance towards them absolutely clear: those who partake in such behaviour are at source cowards who only feel able to express the products of their sub-average brains when they’ve got a mob around them. Liverpool, Chelsea and England are all guilty of allowing such mobs to form among their crowds and, in doing nothing in response to such appalling chants, they allow them to flourish.
Liverpool, Hodgson and the Chelsea board have all failed to make their opposition clear to it and sadly it looks unlikely they’ll ever do so. At least David Milliband has made a stance by resigning as vice-chairman Sunderland following the arrival of that little fascist Paolo di Canio at Sunderland. Full marks, for a change, to Mr Milliband, but rather more worrying are those condemning him for an over-reaction: Di Canio’s former boss Jeremy Wray seems to think you can keep this kind of odious politics apart from football and has criticised Milliband for making his stance. Such people have very short memories regarding the recent history of the game in this country.
As United fans, it may well falling to us, as usual, to show our fiece opposition to the English game falling into the hands of right-wing boot boys on the one hand and cowardly appeasers on the other. Our very vocal feelings towards what Terry and Suarez’s actions represent have already been made strongly. They may now, out of necessity, take on a deeper significance. Opposition against this worrying tendency needs to be heard and, if we have to do it on our own, that’s not an unusual situation for our club.. Outside of London, United are the only club in England whose support has a racial diversity that gets anywhere near to reflecting the ethnic mix of our country. Let’s do what the England national team appear completely unwillling to do: take the lead in setting the right standards for the rest of football to follow.
Article by Mark Nevin ( @DeepRedMark )