|New Year, New Attitudes?|
written by TimS Monday, 7th Jan 2013 15:23
It seems an age since I wrote a frustrated piece for this site on a dull and dank Monday evening in Devon. 2012 has been and gone. Loan players have been and gone but you like to think that the 1st January 2013 is a clean slate.
What has been and gone in the last year has been and gone and despite two 2013 defeats at the time of writing, you want to think that Town are going in the right direction.
Back in November, I had no confidence and now in January, I have a bit more confidence even though loan players continue to be the diet for Town at this present time.
Any fan who bought an A4 team poster back last August must wonder whose faces are those that are grinning and scowling in that very footballer like way when the shot was taken last summer. Any first team shirt signings for the kids (and adults) must surely now take place in a Portman Road conference suite.
But it is a new year and I do not want to whinge. Five days into the new year, and you may have seen the weekend headlines that West Ham footballer, Matt Jarvis, has appeared on the front page of Attitude magazine talking about the difficulties that professional footballers may face when coming out to the general public.
Nothing much new about that. Beckham and Freddie Ljungberg appeared on the magazine’s front page in the last decade but I sense that things have changed a bit.
OK, a quick look around the venomous chat rooms brings up age old prejudices which could suggest that British football thinking is stuck in the dark ages. However, the recent alleged racism stories have woken some fans to think that there are still some severe social problems linked to football which need to be tackled. I am one of those fans.
It is not my intention to impose some ‘right-on’ ideology on fellow Town fans or the wider football community. I respect that everyone has a view point but I can not help but wonder how I could watch players cut their craft on the pitch, or watch the game that I love, and feel that in some way, they are living in denial, paranoid that if they make any slight suggestion about their sexuality, their creed, their beliefs, or their race, they will be snubbed or barracked whether overtly, or in that particularly nasty ‘behind the hands’ sort of way.
He may have been a Norwich player, and scored one of the most memorable top flight goals of all time (precisely a week after I was born), but the story of Justin Fashanu makes difficult reading. It is 15 years since Fashanu committed suicide in an East London garage. Watch your favourite video sharing website to catch some of Fashanu’s goals but we will never quite know what was said to whom, whether on the training ground or in the changing room when Fashanu was around.
For a player with obvious footballing ability to dramatically decline to the point of suicide in the east end of London was a tragic waste for someone who could have been an inspiration to so many people in so many different ways.
So, we are left with a situation where there are no openly gay footballers playing in British football at this present time. The issue of racism is also generally believed to have gone away. The ‘classic’ picture of John Barnes and the banana skin is generally shown as evidence that football has moved on from the eighties. The work that I have done has demonstrated that football can connect with Britain’s minority communities, but I am still not entirely sure whether the disease of racism or ‘racialism’ is totally out of the game at all levels. Friends from ethnic minorities who live in cities with large ethnic communities have felt uneasy attending games at their local clubs.
In some ways, Britain is a more tolerant country and I do not care that football is a 'working class game’ and that this sort of bile is just ‘banter’ on the terraces. I do not believe that when you enter a football ground, anything goes. Plenty of my friends come from what could be defined as working class background but they are tolerant and reasonable people who can control themselves and express themselves from the stand and on the pitch without using racial and homophobic abuse.
There are posters around which advise you to shop an abusive fellow fan during the match action. How many people have actually done that? I believe that there is something called the Respect campaign. How many people have suggested that the campaign is a total waste of time, and that because of the sheer hopeless nature of the campaign, the FA should just give up the ghost and concentrate on getting England to the next World Cup?
How many people have played football whether indoors or outdoors, heard a fellow player kick off on personal topics which are nothing to do with football ability, and felt powerless to do anything about it?
There is a bit more hope these days. Players are at least talking about it, but until football fans and players have the confidence to challenge other people’s abuse and views, the cover shot will just remain nothing more than a nice picture to start the new year.
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