Aston Villa Fan Racism – Is There a Problem?
2012 – The Year of the Racist
Racism has increasingly been the de rigueur subject matter in football this year. Until the last few months, racism had been considered to be fading from football.
According to the Kick It Out campaign over 25% of professional footballers in the English leagues are black and Fabio Cappello, in his time as England manager, fielded an average of five black players in his starting line-ups. If you want further progress, Chelsea fielded six black players in this year’s European Champion’s League Final.
Of course, they’d been blips, ala Ron Atkinson’s misdemeanor in 2004, but for most people, the perception was at least, that racism in the English game was surely on the wane.
When the Panorama television show, preceding this year’s European Championship, suggested that Poland and Ukraine football was riddled with racist fans, it seemed to do so in a way that suggested these Eastern European countries were not as sophisticated as their Western neighbours. Former England international Sol Campbell even suggested that England fans shouldn’t travel to Poland and the Ukraine because of the threat of racism.
When the tournament was underway, Croatia were fined for a banana being thrown on the pitch during their game with Italy. The English media looked down on these fans, it was another country’s problem and disease.
The irony was though, former England captain and talismanic defender John Terry was up for charges of alleged racism, when he returned home from the Euros 2012.
Supporters of other clubs would look at Terry though as representative of certain sections of Chelsea’s support that are notoriously ‘less-than-pc’. If proof was needed of that, you should have been on the same tube as MOMS on the way to Wembley for the FA Cup semi-final between Villa and Chelsea in 2010, to hear Chelsea fan’s songs about Emmanuel Adebayor’s parent’s occupations and songs about Spurs fans’ Jewish roots that would even make the Third Reich blush.
Liverpool fans had also found themselves in the awkward position of closing ranks to defend Suarez’s alleged racism in the face of their old foes Manchester United.
Villa fans could happily sit on the sidelines though, knowing they were better than this. For Villans, who have lived in the multicultural city of Birmingham and have long watched a team with players that had reflected that, racism was from a bygone age. Wasn’t it?
Along with Arsenal, Villa are the only club to have reached an advanced level in the Equity Standard that football clubs must now follow; the very same guidelines that are practiced in local government. The club have come on along way since the former club mascot ‘Darkie’ of the 1950’s (see pic below). The mixed-raced former Villa player, that supporters now refer to as ‘God’ is a prime example of that.
However, going back to this summer’s European Championships, on the night that England beat the Ukraine and booked their place into the quarter-finals of the Euros, Villa fans were shocked to see the following on twitter:
Personal freedom of speech is one thing, but this had to be challenged, because he was declaring such thoughts under the name and badge of Aston Villa with his twitter account name ‘AVFC1Love’. The account name was the main reason he had over a 1000 followers, not because of his own name or face (which we have decided not to publish).
The most incredulous aspect of this Villa persona was the name ‘AVFC1Love’. ‘1 Love’? Now that’s irony you just couldn’t make up.
‘One Love’ refers to the universal love and respect expressed by all people for all people, regardless of race, creed, or colour. Maybe he was using the term ‘One Love’ in the context derived from Hip Hop music ? That music fraternity use it to indicate a sole love of hip-hop. But from Bob Marley to the Wu Tang Clan, ‘One Love’ is about as far from white power as you can get.
Now ‘Mr One Love’ took down this twitter account and apologised to the world of Twitter, saying he was drunk (should alcoholic drinks carry warnings that they might mysteriously turn people into white power advocates?), but not before he had embarrassed himself, accusing Villa fans who questioned his statement as being on a ‘witch hunt’ and of spreading ‘propaganda’!
Interestingly,this supporter is old enough to know better. His views are his views, but when he was dismissing anyone who asked him to explain himself (everyone was very civil in their communication with him), he let himself down a little.
‘The internet and football is an unpleasant combination’ read an article in football magazine When Saturday Comes. It was referring to the growing influence of football fans venting their opinions on all things online from death threats to football journalists to the calling of players abusive names. Of course, it is unpleasant, but what twitter does do is offer a transparency and insight into the existence of racism at supporter level. Racism is essentially bread through ignorance, but it’s one time that ignorance certainly isn’t bliss, as people are increasingly accountable; as the student who directed racist tweets to Collymore found out.
What is worrying is the fact that racism does exist in the current generation of football fans, despite them growing up only with the experience of a multicultural football league. It’s worrying. Anybody on twitter the night that England were knocked out by Italy on penalties in the European Championship, would have seen several ignorant racist tweets by young teenage boys and girls.
When England wins, it’s seen as a victory for white English pride and power, but when England loses, race is then used as an escape goat. How very convenient.
Of course, while football attempts to still kick racism out, ultimately only society as a whole can solve the problem through better education, parenting, and awareness.
In the meantime, as Villa supporters we can at least take care of our own and hopefully set an example to the rest of English football.
Follow MOMS on Twitter – @oldmansaid