Racism in football just like in life is a problem that just won’t go away. Despite the number of global campaigns such as the Kick it out and the Give Racism the Red Card campaigns players all across the world both at professional and amateur levels are still being subjected to racist abuse whether it be from opposition fans or players. Recent controversy surrounding the abuse hurled at Raheem Sterling and Callum Hodson-Odoi while on international duty with England has brought racism in football into the spotlight once again. While we look at these issues on the continent it is important to discover how Irish football is trying to combat the problem in the country.
The FAI has come under a lot of criticism lately for a number of issues and racism is certainly one that many feel the organisation is failing to address thoroughly enough. SARI (Sport Against Racism Ireland) chairman Perry Ogden is one of many who feels the organisation has not done enough to protect players from racial abuse. Perry feels that racism in football in the country has “not been addressed properly” by the FAI as his organisation has “received numerous complaints from players who have been subjected to racial abuse on and off the pitch”.
Perry believes the FAI have not offered enough support to both players and referee’s regarding racism as he sees referee’s at the moment as not being “fully equipped to deal with issues of racist abuse during matches”. His organisation work tirelessly to tackle racism in all sport in the country by promoting integration and diversity through a number of campaigns and initiatives saying his organisations goal is to “celebrate diversity”. In Perry’s eyes the FAI “need to take a firmer stance against racism and they need to give referee’s more help in order to get rid of these ugly incidents from football pitches all over the country”.
SARI look to tackle racism “through education” by bringing “different ethnic backgrounds together and integrating them through football and other sports”. The organisation has launched a number of campaigns in order to educate children and adults on the effects of racism and how if we can bring people of different ethnic backgrounds together we can stamp out racism from sport. The organisation launched its United Through Sport campaign which was a “major awareness campaign and education support promoting the powerful potential for positive integration through sport”.
The campaign which was launched in Belfast implemented “anti-discrimination workshops in primary schools which educated school children on racism, sexism and homophobia”. The campaign saw the likes of Brian Kerr, Mickey Harte and Jo Scott turn out in support of SARI’s campaign to educate and tackle racism in sport in Ireland. The campaign celebrated famous sports people of all ethnic backgrounds in Ireland through a sequence of videos released by the organisation. SARI had the support of a number of leading sport and county council organisations for the campaign including the IRFU, GAA, Football for Hope and the Dublin City Council Department of Integration among others.
Despite his organisations work Perry still sees racism as a very prevalent fixture in football in Ireland. Perry is particularly concerned with the use of the word “tolerant” from FAI chief’s and government ministers believing that the use of this word “shows the disconnect these organisations have with issues of diversity and racism”. Racism in football is something that Perry believes “won’t change overnight”. Perry sees education to children as tantamount to tackling issues of racism and diversity in football saying “kids need to learn about these issues”. For Perry it is vital to educate the youth of the country about diversity and racism and if it is done with good justification then maybe racism in football will finally stop rearing its ugly head. For more information on SARI and the work they do visit www.sari.ie.
Amateur football in Ireland is certainly an area of concern regarding issues of racial abuse. The Leinster Senior League and the Dublin District Schoolboy League are two leagues in the country that experience problems in tackling racist abuse towards players. One player that has been subjected to racial abuse in both leagues is Hudaifa Delaney (21). Hudaifa, who is of Algerian descent, says that it is “something I am used to by now”. Hudaifa has had racist abuse hurled at him while playing for Leicester Celtic in both the DDSL and the LSL.
Hudaifa has been subjected to racist abuse on numerous occasions throughout his career in both leagues and believes the problem may never go away saying “Racism will always be in football and society, it’s just in some people’s nature to be racist”. Hudaifa says that years of abuse have just made him a stronger person saying “It used to affect me when I was younger but now I just laugh it off as it just shows what kind of person that person is who makes the remark”. The problem with racism in football in the country and globally for Hudaifa seems to be getting worse as he relates “Despite the effort of organisations to stamp racism out of football its nearly getting worse over the past few years especially at a professional level you only have to look at the abuse Sterling and Hodson-Odoi got when playing for England to see that”.
Another player of Algerian descent who was subjected to racial abuse in the LSL is Yanis Boulmelh (19). Yanis has been subjected to racial abuse all the way through his youth and has been told by managers to just ignore the abuse. While playing for Firhouse Clover in the LSL Yanis was called a “Paki b******” by an opposition player. Yanis confronted the player after the match which resulted in a fight between the two teams. Yanis took to social media to voice his grievances but took down his post on the advice of his club secretary. However, Yanis reposted it after his Ghanaian teammate asked him why he had taken it down.
These incidents are only a few of many across the country of players being subjected to racial abuse. While organisations such as SARI are working diligently to educate people on issues of racism and diversity it seems like racism in football and sport in general just won’t go away. Thus, organisations such as the FAI need to take a harder stance against racism in sport in order to make these ugly incidents a thing of the past. In order for society as a whole in this country to progress For more information regarding the Leinster Senior League and the Dublin District Schoolboy League visit www.lsl.ie and www.ddsl.ie.