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  • Anita Abayomi

#BLM ... Represent Us.

We speak on the lives that matter yet we fail to act on behalf of those who are not seen as equals in the eyes of the oppressors. "There's no colour in football" but when we have a bad game, the painting becomes vivid and the differences between us and them is the focal point for their frustration. They hear the cries from the public, they address it with silence. They hear the cries from the players, they address it with "solidarity". Not solidarity to appease the cause but solidarity to silence the oppressed.

Represent us.

Start with hiring us. You cannot begin to understand us when there is nobody to represent us within your board. Without understanding us, you cannot begin to amend the deeply rooted issue which stems from our society. There's a whooping 0/11 black board members within the English FA. How can you stand with us when you do not adequately represent us? Be the change you want to see ! The lack of representation is the catalyst for the normalisation of racism in football today. Is the FA getting better at tackling racist incidents ? Arguably yes. Are they doing enough? Absolutely not.

One thing football fans praise UEFA for is their 3 step protocol that they introduced in 2019:

"Step one

If the referee becomes aware of racist behaviour, or is informed of it by the fourth official, he will stop the game. He will then request an announcement to be made over the public address system asking spectators to immediately stop any racist behaviour.

Step two

If the racist behaviour does not cease after the game has restarted, the referee will suspend the match for a reasonable period of time, for example, five to ten minutes, and request teams to go to the dressing rooms. A further announcement is made over the public address system.

Step three

As a final resort, if the racist behaviour continues after a second restart, the referee can definitively abandon the match."

I would like you to imagine a scenario in the work place. Your colleague has made a racial remark towards you, making you to feel uncomfortable in doing your job.

Step One

Take no offence and request an announcement that colleagues should stop being overtly racist.

Step Two

Take no offence, pretend that the first incident didn't happen until it happens again. Now stop working for 5-10 minutes.

Step Three

Once you have received the further racial abuse you can pack your bags then leave your office.

Are we understanding how ridiculous this is? As a black male/female football player, I must wait until the third incident of racism has occurred before something of meaning can be done? Now, I understand change does not happen over night and this is arguably the most cost effective solution however; what is the likelihood of stage 3 actually occurring? We saw this 3 step protocol used in the Bulgaria vs England Euro qualifier. At the third step did we see our players walk off the pitch? Despite Gareth Southgate's amazing show of support, we did not. The media love to say "They let their football do the talking", but what that translates to is "shut up and play".

Black football players in the UK are the minority. The pressure for a black player to walk off the pitch due to racism in what most call a very "diverse" country is a big ask. If truly our Managers are behind the cause and are given the full autonomy, they should be driving force to abandoning matches. Furthermore, once a match has been abandoned, whether in international group stages, domestic cup rounds or just league matches; the team with the abusive fans must be the team who loses by default. Show them how seriously you stand beside us. Show them that this behaviour is not okay.

Protect our Youth.

The general European consensus is that black players should not provoke fans into resulting in racism. Is this a fact? No. Is this what is portrayed? Yes. Ask Bonucci. "We are professionals, we have to set the example and not provoke anyone". Leonardo Bonucci 2019. He uttered these words in relation to his fellow black team mate Moise Kean's reaction to the abuse he received during an away game at Cagliari. “There were racist jeers after the goal, Blaise heard it and was angered. I think the blame is 50-50, because Moise shouldn’t have done that".

The problem here is not the fact that Italy & Juventus'  Vice-Captain Bonucci has chosen to turn his back on his team mate. It is also not the fact that he has condemned his black team mate's reaction after being subjected to an entire match of racist abuse. No. It is the fact that there are other black teenagers out there who are being taught that racist abuse is normal and they must react to favour the oppressors. That to me, is disgusting. How many of the black youths in football across Europe are being told that it is okay to hear monkey chants because of your skin colour. How many black youths in football across Europe are being told by White rich men how to act when being racially abused. This is a culture that is not highlighted enough and it NEEDS to be broken.

Inconspicuous Racism

I should not need to highlight specific events to attest to prevalence of racism in today's football society. I am sure that my oppressors are tired of hearing the same stories that stem from our reality, but you see the problem is; once you put your foot on the Tiger's neck, you can never take it off. We've all seen the racism black footballers face across Europe. We see the events that unfold and can call a spade a spade. What some of us do not see is the inconspicuous via the conspicuous. *Side note: I think I deserve some finger clicks for my word play* .

By this I mean the headlines, the punditry, the over expectation. It is not the typical "in your face" racism that many are used to seeing. The subtle nature allows the abuse to go undetected leading to a chain of brainwashing fuelled by racism.

The Raheem Sterling saga is one that has been used time and time again. They still do not understand how their headlines have played as a detriment to his former reputation. Let's educate our oppressors and show them these two examples highlighted by Sterling himself. Both headlines describe two young Manchester City players who have just bought new homes, Tosin Adarabioyo & Phil Foden.

Adarabioyo's articled highlighted his age, weekly salary, the type of house he has bought, specifies the amount to the 2nd decimal place, highlights that he has never started a premier league match. From this headline, before seeing the player's appearance, you have enough information to fuel a negative agenda. The first thing that comes to mind is "Look at this footballer, not even started a Premier League game yet and he's splashing this much cash on a whole Mansion?" His name was not even mentioned in the headline, yet his take home salary was the focal point. Compared to Phil Foden's headline, let's spot the difference.

Young Manchester City Footballer, 20 - Starlet

No Name - Phil Foden

Mansion - Home

£2.25Million - £2m

The hyperbole on the headlines fuels the agenda against that footballer before being the colour of their skin is even seen. You automatically associate the negative connotations of that headline with the footballer. The same thing happens for another footballer, you then see the colour of their skin and see a pattern. It then happens to another black footballer and another and so forth till it becomes a trend to the readers. That is inconspicuous racism via conspicuous platforms. It is dangerous and the media knows it. This can be done through Punditry, Greame Souness' excessive distaste for Paul Pogba is a prime example. It can also be done through wrongful/over expectation of a player. Let me make something very clear, just because a player is black we do not need to expect him or her to naturally adopt the "pace & power" attributes that black people are subjected to. 

Help us Help You.

Quite frankly writing about racism drains me as a black woman so I have kept  this short and sweet. I am not crying out to just be heard, I am not making a plea to see change for a short period, I am pleading to be just understood. For our black players & our black fans to feel as though they are adequately represented. Get at least 1 black member on the FA's board and for the love of God, please do not appoint John Barnes. He does NOT speak for the majority of the minorities. If you cannot appoint a black board member for one unreasonable reason or the other, let's get a fully independent body. Give them the autonomy to decide on what happens when racial incidents occur. Not just retrospective action for clubs, but a "right now and then" protocol to make forceful steps into eradicating the systematic hate for blacks in the game. Black football players also have to take active steps to making a difference. You do not only speak for yourself, you speak for our community who are deeply invested in football. Make a stand, make the right stand. Players such as Balotelli & Kevin Prince Boateng have walked off their matches when being subject to racism. Do the same. If the FA really stand for us, they will defend you. If they do not defend you, we will defend you. Fans who truly support the cause for equality will defend you. I reiterate, be the change that you want to see. Let's not loop ourselves back into the same cycle. Teach our young black footballers not to take disrespect because of their skin colour. Change will come.

Besides... let's be honest here, you take black players out of every successful team in across the world, where would they be ? If today the black community decides to take on Mario Balotelli's challenge to leave Europe and put money together to start a super League in Africa, how cultural and beautiful would the game be for you then?  You need us, represent us. 

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