Rami Shamel, BA History
No one is sure who first coined the phrase ‘the beautiful game’ to refer to football, but what is clear is that football and beauty are a natural pair. For your normal football connoisseur, the sport is not just as simple as hoofing a ball into a net. It has, at its pinnacle, an aesthetic dimension – it is not just a game, but an art.
However, in recent times one dark and demeaning issue has tainted the beauty of football and unfortunately is taking headlines for the wrong reasons. Racism has been a core hot topic in modern day football and the rise of racial abuse towards players has increased dramatically. There is a myth that everyone deserves a voice, that there are two sides to every argument. This, however, is indeed false. Racists warrant only hatred and no airtime. Letting them explain themselves only normalises their irrational views.
The rise of players fighting against racism in football has increased dramatically, however. England stars Raheem Sterling and Tammy Abraham, alongside Belgium international Romelu Lukaku, are just some of the ever growing list of players who have suffered racial abuse on the pitch and have decided to stand up and fight back. A more central issues surrounds the fact that the players themselves believe not enough is being done to fight racism in football and that there needs to be a rise in the actions taken against racists who are ruining the beautiful game. In particular, Raheem Sterling, 24, has been a vocal and key advocate against racism in football and is supporting a campaign to promote Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people in positions of power. Sterling has stated that football will never return to the beautiful game it once was with this dark topic surrounding the sport. Speaking on his belief that football is way behind in its battle to root out racism, Sterling stated in an interview with the Times: “It seems crazy that, in 2019, I feel the need to write a piece in a newspaper calling for radical changes to the game that I love. But I do because the racism problem in football is so bad, runs so deep and is nowhere near being sorted”.
One of the biggest issues is that Fifa and Uefa are reactive, not proactive. The punishments and consequences given to racists have been routine. The steps they need to take have to be escalated and far more serious as it is clear that their current responses are not enough. It’s simple, if your fans racially abuse players or spectators then the ban on fans visiting your next home games should be increased.
With the Euro 2020 Qualifiers taking place in the next few months, it seems that national teams are coming prepared to take action against any racist chants directed towards players. England’s national team have been very vocal about their views on racism in football and have made it clear that they are willing to take matters into their own hands if needs be. Rising star and England’s international forward Tammy Abraham has made it clear that the team are willing to walk off the pitch if any of the players feel under racial attack, stating that “if it happens to one of us, it happens to all of us”.
It is clear that things need to change and they need to change now. Everyone in football needs to rethink how they deal with racism. The only voice worth listening to is the one that calls out racist attitudes and this is the way forward to fully eradicate racism from the “beautiful game”.