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Football must do more to eradicate the scourge of racism

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Expert
27th December, 2018
30

There’s no use pointing the finger at Chris Sutton for his idiotic comments when the A-League has a significant problem of its own to sort out.

You know what no one called the England-born former Celtic striker Sutton when he labelled the Asian Cup “a Mickey Mouse competition” the other day?

A racist.

That’s because British football sits at the top of the tree for the majority of fans from English-speaking countries, automatically relegating teams from other parts of the world to the status of second-class citizens.

It’s one of the reasons so many English commentators effectively cheer on British clubs against European opponents during global broadcasts of UEFA Champions League games.

And there’s one other thing that amplified Sutton’s comments about Tom Rogic and his impending Asian Cup duties far beyond what the one-time English international might have expected.

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Social media.

Let’s be real, Sutton’s job as a Scottish Premier League pundit is to provoke discussion.

But his comments might never have gone any further than McDiarmid Park in central Scotland and the watching television audience had they not incurred the wrath of an army of Socceroos fans on Twitter.

Sutton’s no fool – although he plays one on TV – and his younger brother John played for the Central Coast Mariners when Rogic was still at the club.

So he understands Australian football well enough to know Rogic’s importance to the Socceroos.

But because Sutton automatically believes British football is superior and he remains oblivious to the power of social media, he figures the smartest thing he can add to a discussion panel is: “Stick to your prawns and barbecues”.

Side-splitting stuff.

And didn’t the infamous #SokkahTwitter community let Sutton know exactly what they thought of his comments?

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Funny, though, how there was a more muted response when Western Sydney Wanderers midfielder Roly Bonevacia said he’d been racially abused by members of the crowd at Coopers Stadium on Boxing Day.

Roly Bonevacia

Roly Bonevacia. (Photo by Nigel Owen/Action Plus via Getty Images)

Do as we say but not as we do? You certainly get that impression from some members of Australian football’s online community.

And while we’re sitting here doling out the truth bombs, there are a couple more things that need to be acknowledged.

The first is that there is no excuse for racism of any kind anywhere.

If you get caught racially abusing anyone at an A-League game, you should face a ban.

However, after Brisbane Roar goalkeeper Jamie Young was racially abused at a game in Mudgee earlier this season, he told The Australian’s Ray Gatt that he wants fans to be educated about the impact of racist abuse rather than simply being banned from the game entirely.

And it’s perhaps worth considering what sort of person would racially abuse a player in the first place.

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Probably a drunk one. And statistically speaking – at least as far as most anecdotal evidence is concerned – almost certainly a male.

But as we’ve seen with the persistent racial abuse in Italy’s Serie A – Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly was the latest victim – this is hardly just an A-League problem.

There’s not always much understanding in Australia of how Italian football functions.

For one thing, there’s a persistent myth that attendances in Serie A are small – the reality is that the league is averaging more than 25,000 this season alone.

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And there’s no doubt that in a league where hardcore Ultras still wield outsized influence, some of them will use any tactic available to impact a game – including racist abuse.

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But I just wonder if there aren’t often some deeply held, culturally engrained attitudes at play as well.

In which case, changing this sort of behaviour is going to take much more than just empty platitudes.

At the end of the day, football needs to do more to stamp out racist abuse.

There’s no excuse for it – and the buck stops with all of us.