NORMAN GILLER was saddened by scenes from an ugly, bygone era at an international football match this week
Danny Rose, the England under-21 international defender, should be banned from the game as an example to other footballers that their racist behaviour will not be tolerated. How dare he make monkey gestures at spectators and get in the way of the stones they are throwing.
Just in case you don’t get it, let me stress that this is me being sarcastic. I have irony in my soul.
It is no funnier – or less objectionable – than the Serbian FA issuing a statement to say it “absolutely refuses and denies that there were any occurrences of racism” at Tuesday’s European under-21s qualifying match in Krusevac., despite loud monkey chants being clearly heard.
The Serbs took their prose into the world of Monty Python by adding that the behaviour of Rose, sent off for kicking the ball into the crowd, was “inappropriate, unsporting and vulgar”. Their response completely ignored the severe provocation and abuse he had faced from the moment he walked on to the pitch, targeted by the home fans along with his black teammates because of the colour of his skin.
The incongruity was not lost on this old git as I watched on the news channels the war crimes trial of Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader. His claim that he should be rewarded rather than punished was from the same land of make believe as the Serbian FA statement.
Uefa must tackle the racist issue head on. You only have to glance a little south of Serbia to see the rise of the Golden Dawn political party in Greece. It is further proof that Fascism is raising its ugly head in a major way, and it feeds off the mass appeal of football.
While calling for Serbia to be banned, England’s Football Association must be careful to avoid hypocrisy. The stench from the Terry-Anton Ferdinand affair is still in the nostrils.
And it was only the day before yesterday that the English game was wallowing in a cesspit of bigotry. You had to be there to see the bananas being thrown and to hear the monkey chants to know just how deep and despicable racism had become, not only scarring the face of the Beautiful Game but also scaring anybody with a sense of humanity and fair play.
I am talking late 1960s and into much of the 1970s, when black footballers in the English league had to suffer vile verbal abuse every time they crossed the touchline.
As a reporter covering more than 100 matches a season for the Daily Express, I was appalled by the behaviour of a mindless minority, who were in large enough numbers to make me consider walking away from the game and the job that I loved.
I lasted until 1973 when I jumped ship while holding the prestigious post of chief football writer. The racists and hooligans – who made every train journey to a football match a nightmare – had won. But in a way I have to thank them for helping me find a freelance path that has given me a wealth of adventures and, just occasionally, rewarding achievements.
We now have clear evidence that racism in the game has not gone away but is coming dangerously back to the surface. It is the duty of every sports writer – every journalist – to expose and denounce any racist behaviour.
And Uefa can give a lead by banning Serbia. Some argue that to isolate them would only make matters worse, but punishment needs to be swift and severe. Uefa casually leaving the inquiry until their next meeting on November 22 is hardly treating the issue with the urgency it requires.
ARTHUR ROWE, the Father of Spurs, used to have a saying that he often repeated to me when I used to sit at his knee as a young reporter: “When a player is not in possession he must make sure he gets into position.”
Bill Nicholson learned this as a player in Rowe’s push-and-run team and then passed it on – pass being the operative word – when he became the magnificent manager of the Tottenham side that famously won the Double in 1960-61.
I now pass the simple advice on – yes pass it – to Roy Hodgson, for him to feed to his England players. England continually lost possession during Wednesday’s ponderous performance against Poland, and then they failed to take up positions to help them regain the ball.
Another Arthur Roweism: “It’s a simple game, only the players complicate it.”
Hodgson has always been a fine tactician, but he must concentrate on getting his players to do the simple things well, otherwise England will not be in Rio for the 2014 World Cup carnival.
Pass that along, Roy.
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