I’ve been keeping an eye on the news regarding the investigation of racist Bulgarian football fans and how it has progressed quite swiftly compared to other areas of public life. In the past I have asked why the FA hasn’t done more to combat racism and judged fans for wanting to be part of something that is so tolerant of racist abuse, in particular the way John Terry was found not guilty of a racist offence even though he admitted saying “black fucking bastard”, among other things. The FA still chose to remove his captaincy, which suggests they took a harsher view than the courts but then the England manager Fabio Capello resigned in protest so it was all a bit of a confusing mess.
If it sounds as though I care about football, I don’t. Can’t stand it, can’t stand the hype and the way fans express themselves, or the fact that domestic abuse peaks when there’s a big match on. The entire culture breeds toxic masculinity, and it has always been my experience; whenever I’ve unwittingly walked into a train full of pissed up louts egging each other on to be even more obnoxious, I am renewed in my hatred for the shit show. I detest its power and how mired it is in capitalism, but that’s a grumble for another day. I have never been a football fan and I am proud of this.
Over the past week however, I have watched in awe at every little twist and turn in this saga, from the moment the match was halted to the statement given by the Bulgarian captain in which he expressed his embarrassment, and the resignations, notably the Bulgarian football chief Borislav Mihaylov who had dismissed England’s concerns over racist fans prior to the match as being “groundless” and “offensive” (as many of our own card carrying fascists have done this past decade). Following the match the Bulgarian prime minister called for his resignation and he obliged only days later. Compare the way this has been handled, not only in the football associations but as a nation, from the politicians to the men on the pitch and how woefully short Britain falls of this example. It’s a bit rich of England bosses to express concerns over racist Bulgarian fans whilst the entire nation waits with baited breath to learn of our post Brexit fates. It’s a stretch to position English fans and players as an authority on racism and to make demands of other nations to comply with a set of standards we struggle to achieve ourselves, in any section of society on rainy fascist island. Hypocrisy is something we excel at here.
I surprised myself with my reactions to the rolling news, at first I was understandably outraged and then resigned to this shitehole of a world but then the Bulgarian authorities responded in a way I had not anticipated. I can’t remember the last time a public figure was made to suffer consequences for their bigotry. Consider the apologism meted out in defence of Alan Sugar or Jeremy Clarkson. The numerous examples of serving members of parliament using actual racial slurs only to be excused for their ignorance because they “didn’t mean it in that way” never mind the piccaninnies, watermelon smiles and hijabs as letterboxes jibes from our current prime minister.
Never forget the torture inflicted on the very people who built this country up when it was on its knees following the war. They were always British citizens, descended from a British colony they were forced on to as slaves against their will, of course they didn’t need the paperwork to prove they belonged here. Their children, born on British soil, registered with British birth certificates couldn’t prove they had leave to remain either. So many deported to their deaths, because they were British not Jamaican and easily picked out in a crowd as a soft touch, presumed to be worth something hailing from Britain, mugged for the shirts on their backs, murdered in the scuffle. A Windrush child – a man easily in his 50s but possibly much older – told me recently so many of them had been disappeared, and who could begin to bring about justice for them? He said he was leaving it to his sister to apply for compensation, he couldn’t face it himself. Why isn’t Theresa May and the rest of her murdering cabinet rotting in their cells at The Hague? Why has the British media and government been allowed to construct a narrative that denies the daily racism visible minorities have to navigate as par the course, instead choosing to focus on the prejudice faced by one minority group, dominated by rich and privileged Europeans who claim black and brown people are being racist to them (and that’s why socialism is a bad idea)? You never see black and brown Jews in the mainstream media, why is that? Cos they exist, and need support too.
Football can do all it wants to stamp our racism in its ranks but it’s pointless if the rest of society resists. British football, British politics, British media should lead by example instead of waving fingers and micro-managing other nations. I would insert a quote here about being the change you wish to see in the world but it sprang from the mouth of a racist (be wary of minorities lauded by The West, there’s always a fucked up back story).
I have revised my demands of football; it can only exclude racists from matches but can’t really change the world, not when it hasn’t changed from within.