For every fan on the terraces that sees Sian Massey and envisages a towel in her hand rather than a flag, there is a fan telling her so. Unlike general society, which has an active thought control system enforced by the government more commonly known as P.C, football seemingly delicately avoids the wrath of political correctness with a deft touch, clever feint and swift step-over.
Whilst there is a precedent for equal rights and respect in wider society, the precedent set for behaviour in football, is set by its president Sepp Blatter. His views on the triumvirate of P.C issues (homophobia, racism and sexism) can be neatly summed up with his views on solving racism: “we are in a game, and at the end of the game, we shake hands;” sexism: “[women] could, for example, have tighter shorts;” and homophobia: “[homosexual fans] should refrain from any sexual activities [in Qatar – the hosts of the 2022 World Cup.]”
Shakira having a cheeky word about her shorts
Take Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra saga for example: I can’t help but question what is going on. It has been four months since Suarez and Evra had their misunderstanding and it seems like it may simply be passed off as lost in translation, according to tweets from Dan Walker. Further still, it seems as if the uproar and commotion around John Terry and Anton Ferdinand is finally settling down, but no conclusion has been reached as of yet and won’t be until the summer.
Now, it’s emerged Luis Suarez is taking extra English lessons in an attempt to fully understand the language as to not cause offence in the manner that he did when he referred to Manchester United’s black left-back Patrice Evra, as a “negrito” and “negro”: something he did an alleged 28 times. The Liverpool forward served an eight-match ban for his actions, but believes his punishment has surfaced due to a lack of understanding of the language.
He says that he used the word “negro” in a way in which he was familiar from his upbringing in Uruguay. To explain, Suarez claimed, he used it as a noun and as a friendly address to Evra, used in reference to black or brown-skinned (or even just black-haired) people. Therefore, it meant “Why, black?” Suarez states that when he said “Por que, negro?” to Evra, it was intended to be received in a conciliatory and friendly way.
According to the experts, the Spanish word “negro” cannot simply be translated as “nigger” as would happen synonymously in English: whereas “nigger” refers exclusively to a person with dark skin, “negro” can be used as a noun and an adjective. Most importantly, the word “negro” is ambiguous in all countries and regions of Latin America. In Uruguay, some people who self-identify as black object to the use of the word “negro” as a term of address, as they say it highlights skin colour when this should be irrelevant; they point out that the term “blanco” [white] is rarely used in this fashion. This raises the debate of marked terms and, in this case, loaded terms too: the connotations of the word “negro” carries pejorative connotations, due to the narrowing of its meaning.
However, he is in England and he has used a word that, in the English language, is outdated as it is offensive: for Suarez to call Evra a “negro” is as offensive as David Cameron telling MP Angela Eagle to “calm down, dear” or me calling ‘Arry Redknapp literately gifted.
Yet, with the standard being set by a man, who at 75 even manages to have moral qualms with every idealist’s favourite lyricist, Ed Sheeran, who sings of knowing you, “can’t heal things with a handshake,” it is no surprise that linguistic ignorance is so prevalent. As blogger Rob Casey implies in his January 19th blog, it comes down from the top and right the way through to the bottom, when he says that FIFA are, “clearly in tune with the average football fan: In the 1970s.” Brian Clough, rest his homophobic soul, typifies such a sentiment.
Clough, who managed Britain’s first out gay footballer Justin Fashanu, famously asked Fashanu, “Where do you go if you want a loaf of bread?” “A baker’s, I suppose,” replied Justin. “Where do you go if you want a leg of lamb?” asked Clough, “A butcher’s” replied Justin. “So why do you keep going to that bloody poofs’ club?”
A lot can be said of dear old Cloughie’s ignorance: “bloody poofs’ club” displays a clear disdain for homosexuality, through the use of the expletive “bloody” and the use of “poof” a slang word defined as offensive, is a long outdated term used to describe an effeminate or homosexual man. Yet, in the 21st century, why is such homophobia – defined as the irrational fear and hatred of those who love and sexually desire those of the same sex – prevalent?
Again it falls to where the precedent is set.
Of this topic, Blatter – also infamous for suggesting female footballers should wear snugger clothing, “let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball – they could, for example, have tighter shorts,” choosing to mark females with the definite article “the,” – went on to state that “there shall not be any discrimination against any human beings, being on this side or that side, left or right or whatever.” Brilliant, thanks Blatter.
His failure to directly address homosexuals, instead circling the issue, “this side or that side, left or right or whatever” purely emphasizes the taboo nature of the topic: the president can’t even muster the respect to recognise gay fans and his separation of fans, “left or right” reeking of segregation, is only further strengthened in its ignorance with his uttering of “whatever” a word famed for its careless connotations. Much like Sepp Blatter.
So there we have it: football still circumnavigating political issues that are challenged in wider society – not ignored. But, what can we do about it? The F.A. are satisfying the ethos of the PFA’s latest campaign, raising awareness of homophobia, “we are all winners – football is committed to tackling homophobia”: but, racism is still producing issues, with just two black managers in the entire Football League and sexism is just as prevalent, typified by Carlos Tevez’s chauvinistic remarks about female referees: ”Women shouldn’t referee important games, like the classic with Sao Paulo.”
It’s an issue because it’s the social norm in football. Whilst most of the game has moved on, still excusing geriatric Blatter permanently stuck in the 70s, it is part of the foundations of the game – the fans on the terraces – that create an atmosphere that is almost condoning of such foul language and it is the fans on the terraces that must adopt a change in attitude towards language. It is just the minority, but it is a minority that must be quashed.
The swearing in the stands and the very tribalism that is an essence of team sport, explained by the deindividuation theory, which states that people lose self-awareness in large and thus influential groups, is where the problem may be rooted. To change this, you must change their social influences.
Take the Sports Personality of the Year Award as my closing example: its shortlist was compiled by British sports journalists and not one woman was on it. It was then read by the masses on the terraces. Attitudes must change and that can only be done through promotion and focus: be it female athletes, black managers or gay professionals.
So, praise black coaches for their “intellect” and “knowledge,” and not their “athleticism” and “power”; describe female sportspeople as “athletic” and “skilful” and not “sexy” and “attractive,”: and describe homosexual sportspeople like you and I, not “left or right or whatever.” Words evoke ideas, so let’s evoke some positive ones – for once.
Stop Racism. Stop Sexism. Stop Homophobia.