Headlines were made in the Euro 2013 Play-Off second leg for a variety of reasons. First of all, England won. 1-0 on the night, 2-0 on aggregate, Connor Wickham’s last minute winner sealed a trip to Israel next summer for their 4th consecutive championships at Under 21 level. Then came the scandal which all but affirmed the strong negative presence of racism in modern-day football, harking back to the dark days of the 70’s when black footballers were treated like filth.
Danny Rose was the main victim of the disgusting monkey chants and general missile-throwing to all members of the England side. Coins, rocks and even seats were lobbed at the players as they chose to attack at corners and throw-ins, which combined with the night’s constant racial abuse, made it a night to forget for Serbia. Although, they won’t be too bothered, those fans knew what they were doing on that fateful night and, whilst they aren’t representative of an entire nation’s views, they are indicative of a number of incidents in Eastern Europe, and, regrettably, right here in the UK.
The sudden re-emergance of racism in football is disturbing to say the least. Years of ‘Kick it Out’ campaigns seemed to have done the job of eradicating it from our shores at least, sure there were odd cases, like Ashley Cole and Shaun Wright-Phillips enduring achingly similar monkey chants in a friendly in Madrid almost a decade ago, little reminders of racism, but it never reached the forefront of football like it currently is. Wherever you look is a racism-related story, which may actually be a good thing, Jason Roberts and Rio Ferdinand refusing to wear the t-shirts of the aforementioned ‘Kick it Out’ campaign may kickstart new motions that will truly change the footballing landscape for black players.
That night in Serbia clearly wasn’t a good news story. Neither was the Terry-Ferdinand saga, or the Suarez-Evra debacle. But what is interesting, especially with those last two is how players have ‘targeted’ one another. The unity between players seemingly gone, zero respect shown for those of differing races and ethnicities. Now of course, you’d hope these are just one-off cases, but they still have to be dealt with seriously and severely, it is totally unacceptable for anyone to be singled out for such things. Suarez’s 7 match ban was a start, Terry’s 4 a reset, back to square one. Consistent punishments need to be drawn up and the severity needs to be high, if changes are made now, even throughout the youth system, then both players and fans can grow up benefiting from a zero tolerant attitude to said views.
For all their riches, their fast cars and the general benefits of being a footballer, many put up with abuse of all kinds, be it homophobic, racial, all sorts, because bonehead fans believe that their entry fee entitles them to scream obscenities at their supposed heroes for an hour and a half every other Saturday afternoon. If players begin to slowly morph back into the idols they once were, although the scandal-obsessed media we live in today might have something to say about that, then change can happen. It may be slow, but it can be done. The suspension and sacking of several Serbian players and staff, shows they are up for change, for ridding their nation of the embarrassment, the humiliation of what has happened, now it’s over to FIFA and UEFA to differ from type, and change.