Tag Archives: racism

The Beat(en) Generation

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock or are marooned up in Tier 3 somewhere, you’re probably well aware of the singing section’s recent attempt to award Romelu Lukaku his own personalised terrace ditty. Nothing too controversial with that decision, you might assume. Unfortunately, the boundaries of good taste have been well and truly obliterated as the song in question not only acknowledges Romelu’s goal scoring abilities, it also alleges in uproariously graphic detail that his penis size is equally impressive.

A bit weird? Undoubtedly. Was I surprised to hear it? Not in the slightest.

So this month’s burning question then: are the United fans singing this a massive bunch of racists or merely just a bit of an embarrassment? Since we’re living in the era where anything brainless is excused as banter, it’s very unlikely that anyone revelling in the size of another bloke’s cock is not doing it entirely seriously. Consequently, I’m not sure I agree with Marina Hyde’s assertion that all racial stereotyping is racist, but I’d certainly concur that the song is entirely classless and doesn’t reflect well on anyone joining in or United fans in general.

Given that Lukaku has weighed in himself now asking fans to ‘move on’, it’s more than likely the song will die a slow death rather than hanging around forever like the similarly unreconstructed ‘you eat dogs in your own country’ Ji-Sung Park effort. I hope so. Once upon a time attempts to generate an atmosphere at OT didn’t involve marching to the ground from the Tollgate pub whilst singing a song in praise of your leading goalscorer’s penis. I might be a traditionalist lacking a sense of humour, but it just strikes me as a bit fucking zany and needs to be knocked on the head.

It’s not the first time the J-Stand happy clappers have prompted collective groans from many observers and I doubt it’ll be the last. Perhaps I should be full of admiration for people still trying to create an atmosphere in the ground when that ship sailed 20 years ago; but they lost me at the point they called for a new singing section independent of the existing singing section in Tier 2 of the Stretford End. That’s before you get to the fact placing this in J-Stand meant uprooting hundreds of long-standing ST holders in that area. I’m sorry, but any credibility these people ever had evaporated at that point.

Unsurprisingly, 2 years on from their move to J-Stand, the entire venture has been every bit the resounding flop most of us in the ground anticipated. The atmosphere or noise level on an average match day hasn’t improved at all (not helped by the football on view in recent years, admittedly), so the only discernible change is that supporters in the section are given carte blanche to stand for the duration of the game… that and it’s created a safe space for those involved to compare bobble hats and show off their brand new ‘vintage’ Adidas trackie tops.

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So let’s re-cap here. A singing section is started in Stretford Tier 2 and it doesn’t work. Singing section is then moved to J-Stand, and again it doesn’t work. Unperturbed by this, it appears the organisers haven’t given up. An email has recently been circulated to their members outlining details of the latest meeting the group’s leaders have had with Dan Schofield, the Head of Venue Operations at OT. As well as blaming ‘day trippers’ for the general lack of atmosphere in there week-to-week, they are also lobbying United to free up a block of unreserved seats in J-Stand so the singiest of their singers can all sit/stand together. Yes, you did read that correctly. Their latest brainwave is to create a further singing section within the singing section that was put in place 2 years ago.

I’m sorry lads, but do you honestly believe that this latest round of proposals is going to work? You’ve already usurped 1,600 people who sat in those seats for years and now you’ve decided half of those who replaced them aren’t worthy of a spot in your section either. It’s utterly mental to assume that inconveniencing another several hundred ST holders you class as ‘day trippers’ is going to achieve anything whatsoever other than pissing a load more people off.

Here’s a novel idea, if you’re that motivated and convinced that your time and energies invested in this can make a genuine difference, how about just singing your hearts out at the match and not attempting to dictate who sits where and who’s worthy of a place alongside you? Without wishing to sound patronising, if I sound defeatist it’s because the battle you’re currently engaged in was fought and lost by a generation of United fans who felt just as passionate about this once upon a time as you feel now.

The average age of those people is probably 45-50 these days, and those of us who haven’t been priced out or simply got bored of the gentrification of the place are still going to the match now. We’ve spent most of our football watching lives being told to shut up and sit down by the club and the authorities; so after 20+ years of seeing the match day experience in steady decline the sense of ennui and déjà vu about proceedings becomes palpable.

I don’t know what the answer is here, but I’ll wish you all the best with your endeavours and trust you’ll count your blessings that at least the club are prepared to listen/pay lip service to your present manifesto. In the meantime, I’ll continue to die a little inside each time you launch into another impassioned rendition of ‘whoa whoa whoa whoa, hey hey hey hey’ and trust you’ll try to refrain from singing about Lukaku’s dick given it makes us all look like… well, dicks. Good luck.

Copyright Red News – September 2017

www.rednews.co.uk

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Keep An Open Mind Or Else

Like all great football rivalries, United and Liverpool’s stems from decades of mutual, on and off-pitch loathing: we don’t like them and they don’t like us. You can explore the sociopolitical identities of our two cities and find we have much in common, but in football terms – it’s fair to say Mancs and Scousers breathe different air and exist on different planets.

That said however, like some twisted sibling rivalry, the existence of one helps define and dictate the identity of the other. You’ll do well to meet a United fan who could honestly claim to pay Liverpool no attention and consider their fortunes an irrelevance. We’re in opposition to them on a daily basis, whether it be whilst celebrating moving ahead of them in terms of titles won or by simply sniggering at their unwavering devotion to that rotund oaf, Benitez.

As football supporters, we sport blinkers instinctively as part of our matchday attire. Question is: how much do we let an entrenched dislike of ‘the other’ invade our real lives? Taking football out of the equation, does the old adage of ‘never trust a Scouser’ (or Manc) ring true to the point it shapes opinions or influences relationships at home, socially or at work? The sensible answer to give is ‘no’, of course. That’s a line that reasonable, rational people don’t cross…but as we’ve witnessed recently, football rivalries can transcend what’s reasonable and rational and take us onto extremely dodgy terrain.

“We would rather have it done and dusted, out in the open. Whoever is the guilty party – the person who said it or the accuser – (should) get their due punishment.”

So uttered Kenny Dalglish back on the 28th October, in his familiar, self-righteously indignant mode. Fully supportive of the FA’s decision to launch an independent enquiry into the events at Anfield – where just in case you’ve been away on another planet somewhere, Patrice Evra recently got into ‘a bit of a heated debate’ with Liverpool’s Luis Suárez.

Sadly for Kenny and advocates of racial intolerance everywhere, 9 weeks later, the 3 man independent panel appointed to investigate the matter found Suárez guilty, resulting in a fine of £40,000 and an 8 match suspension. Having steadfastly refused to contemplate anything other than the Uruguayan’s innocence from the start, this wasn’t part of the script at all as far as Kenny was concerned. Within minutes, Liverpool had released an official statement that made for incredible reading.

“We find it extraordinary that Luis can be found guilty on the word of Patrice Evra alone when no-one else on the field of play – including Evra’s own Manchester United teammates and all the match officials – heard the alleged conversation between the two players…”

In reality of course, the 2nd part of that extract was superfluous. Liverpool were unable to grasp that Suárez could be found guilty at all – how could an independent panel listen to all the evidence in what was a highly emotive, sensitive case and reach an informed and considered decision against them? How dare they.

“LFC considers racism in any form to be unacceptable – without compromise…It is our opinion that the accusation by this particular player was not credible – certainly no more credible than his prior unfounded accusations.”

“In any form”…“without compromise”. Seriously?! This seemed slightly at odds with their assertion that Evra was an unreliable character, a truculent upstart ‘with previous’ for playing the race card.

“It is key to note that Patrice Evra himself in his written statement in this case said ‘I don’t think Luis Suárez is racist’. The FA in their opening remarks accepted that Luis Suárez was not racist.”

Hang on, I’m getting confused here – so are we to take notice of what Evra says or not? In the last paragraph they were claiming he wasn’t in any way credible, remember? Clearly we must disregard the part of Evra’s testimony that is damning towards Suárez, but take careful note of the part in which he states he doesn’t believe the guy is racist. That’s all a bit conveniently contradictory, isn’t it?

No one thought for a minute that Suárez was a card carrying member of the BNP…or UNP…or whatever. The FA’s verdict wasn’t casting aspersions on his political views, it was delivered following an investigation into a one-off incident. To illustrate: I’m not an alcoholic, but that doesn’t mean I can’t get pissed and make a tit of myself.

“Luis himself is of a mixed race family background as his grandfather was black…He has played with black players and mixed with their families whilst with the Uruguay national side and was Captain at Ajax Amsterdam of a team with a proud multi-cultural profile, many of whom became good friends.”

“Luis is also a keen fan of dub reggae and once enjoyed a relaxing, family holiday in the Caribbean. He respects diversity so much that he’ll often request half-rice and half-chips. He prefers 1970’s Michael Jackson, when his skin was considerably darker than it was in later years.” Okay, okay, we geddit.

“We would also like to know when the FA intend to charge Patrice Evra with making abusive remarks…in the most objectionable of terms. Luis, to his credit, actually told the FA he had not heard the insult.”

Oh so we were to pay attention to this part of Evra’s statement as well, were we? Funny that. So Suárez hadn’t considered it relevant to mention a key mitigating fact – that he’d been incited? Despite the seriousness of the allegations and potential damage to his personal and professional reputation, he’d chosen not to mention the fact he was provoked? Very odd.

The statement was an incendiary development in a story that had been a quietly smouldering since the original incident, weeks earlier. With the decision to wear ‘Suárez 7’ shirts in support of their troubled colleague at Wigan, a day later – Liverpool may as well have chucked a can of petrol over proceedings.

Up to that point, press reaction to the original verdict had been fairly mixed – if anything, most commentators in the football world seemed taken aback by the severity of the punishment imposed. The t-shirts, however, led to widespread condemnation. Consensus of opinion interpreting Liverpool’s actions as somewhat crass, rather than the classy and dignified gesture of solidarity as was intended.

The siege mentality is a common managerial tool in football, with our own manager utilising it to stunning effect over the years. As well as helping bond a dressing room, it’s a useful (if obvious) trick for getting supporters onside too. You purposefully perpetuate a sense of injustice with the insinuation being that everyone (whether that be referees, the authorities or the rest of the world in general) is wishing nothing but ill on you. Hence, everyone unites behind a common cause with the intention of upsetting the odds and proving all outsiders wrong.

As United fans, we’re well versed in seeing the world contrary to public opinion. We defended Eric whilst some were calling for him to be imprisoned or extradited back in Jan ’95, and closed ranks around a number of our players during the fallouts of England’s repeated tournament failings. Similar posturing from Liverpool though, looked spectacularly ill-judged in this instance – pinned in a corner, fervently defending Suárez’s right to repeatedly call an opponent ‘negro’. Such battles aren’t worth fighting, one would reasonably assume.

Still, fight they did. Dalglish was unrepentant in his post-match press conference, sounding bewildered as to the fuss taking place. “It would be helpful to everyone if someone gave us some guidelines about what you can and cannot say.” Yeah, these politically correct types, eh Kenny? Bloody can’t say anything these days…ask Jeremy Clarkson. Meanwhile, Alan Hansen waded in and found himself dangerously close to Ron Atkinson waters on MOTD.

The list of people to boycott and complain to was growing and anyone speaking out of term (Livepool’s terms) was rounded on. Stan Collymore was subjected to all kinds of abuse on twitter for daring to condemn the club’s stance, much of this coming from black and Asian LFC fans for whom misplaced loyalty to the club had taken precedence over common sense. John Barnes played it safe, peddling the ‘cultural differences’ line whilst Paul McGrath gave a withering assessment of Glen Johnson’s compliance in the t-shirt stunt during an interview on Talksport.

Ever the astute social commentator and nemesis of good grammar, Rio Ferdinand blundered in with a knee-high challenge on twitter. “I’m seeing sooo many BOUNTY’s!! I hate them personally!!” Either that, or he’d just opened a tin of Celebrations.

Liverpool must have known this was all going pear-shaped for them on Christmas Eve, when after a mad few days, events took on an air of the surreal. In a PR move worthy of Brass Eye, a picture appeared in the Daily Mail of John Terry posing with a black baby. Well that was me convinced, he’s obviously NOT racist then. Chelsea also attempted to gather kudos points by revealing they kyboshed attempts by their players to wear t-shirts in support of the lionhearted one, deeming the plan “inappropriate and unhelpful”.

The first sign that anyone connected to LFC was uncomfortable with the stance the club had adopted, came via a Times article penned by respected Scouse journo, Tony Evans. Evans dared to suggest that Liverpool had made grave errors of judgement in their handling of the case and were entirely wrong in attempting to shift focus of the blame onto Evra. Fair play.

Still, it appeared no one thought it wise to brief Dalglish on this development. The FA subsequently published their detailed, 115 page report on the case. In response, Liverpool issued a holding statement – vowing to “digest and properly consider” the content before making further comment.

After 3 days of reflection, LFC and Suárez each released statements that demonstrated their stance hadn’t altered. Whilst deciding not to appeal the ban – Liverpool considered the report to be “highly subjective”, maintained the FA had treated them unfairly and even suggested United had set out to deliberately secure a ban for the player. Suárez meanwhile, showed a similar lack of contrition, instead choosing to remind us how he was “born into a very humble family, in a working class neighbourhood, in a small country” and throwing in a couple of crowd pleasing YNWA’s for good measure.

After the poorly received statements, Dalglish’s press conference following the City game that evening proved simultaneously ludicrous and gripping, upping the ante further and revealing the true extent of the man’s bitterness.

“There’s a lot of things we’d like to say and a lot we could say but we would only get ourselves in trouble. We are not trying to be evasive…well, we are being evasive because we don’t like getting ourselves in trouble. But we know what has gone on. We know what is not in the report and that’s important for us. So without me getting ourselves in trouble, I think that’s it finished.”

No hint of an apology or remorse, just sulky belligerence and a self-pitying refusal to accept that Suárez was out of order. “Wrong place, wrong time”, according to Kenny. Evra, the FA, the 9 week independent investigation, Manchester United…everyone seemed to be in cahoots against Liverpool Football Club.

2 days later and 10 weeks too late, Suárez did, finally, choose to apologise. Well, it was an apology of sorts. A terse, 2 line statement delivered with all the grace and sincerity of a recently admonished pre-schooler. In doing so, he still managed to protest his innocence and pointedly made no reference to any offence that Patrice Evra might have been caused. Class and dignity.

Discussing the case weeks earlier, the question came up ‘imagine the outcry from Liverpool if all of this had been the other way round?’ Say if Javier Hernandez, in a spat with Glen Johnson, had used insulting remarks with racist connotations then sought to discredit Johnson at every opportunity and claim it was all a cultural misunderstanding.

How would we have reacted? Instinct would have led us to defend our boy, wouldn’t it? One would hope that collectively, we (and I’m talking everyone with an interest in Manchester United) might have responded differently. I’m pretty sure the club would have handled things better than Liverpool did, but would United fans have been able to see through the red-tinted specs and accept that a punishment was merited? I seriously doubt it. Most people, I’m certain would have reacted exactly as Liverpool fans had done and blindly followed the party line being dictated by the club. Football supporters are sheep-like by nature, aren’t we?

In true soap-opera fashion, Liverpool were to face the consequences of their handling of the Suárez case within days. 10 minutes to go in an innocuous looking FA Cup tie vs Oldham and 20 year old, Latics player Tom Adeyemi was called a ‘black bastard’ by a single voice on the Kop. After he turned to remonstrate with the perpetrator, the crowd (as they’d been doing throughout the evening) chose that moment to rise as one and re-affirm their support for Suárez. A baying crowd facing a black kid in tears? I’m not deliberately trying to over dramatise things, but this all looked a bit ‘Nuremberg rally’ and made for very uncomfortable viewing.

Of course it was only one dickhead in a crowd of thousands, and noone seriously doubts LFC when they claim to oppose racism and discrimination in all forms. However, due to the timing of the incident, it’s clear the individual concerned had been influenced by the club’s implicit support of Suárez’s conduct towards a black opponent. Even if it was only one supporter, it was one too many. Racism + sheep-like mentality = extremely dodgy terrain. One would hope this provides food for thought when the Liverpool board takes time to reflect on their handling of the Suárez-Evra affair.

Copyright Red News – January 2012

www.rednews.co.uk