Chelsea host Burnley on Saturday, and I sincerely hope there is some kind of action taken by the home club in relation to the hideous incident on the Paris Metro this week.
A few ideas to build on what the club has already – commendably – said and done (for example the placing on its website of this email address for witnesses to contact the club in confidence)
1. Ask The Guardian for the video of the black man being abused by Chelsea fans, and play it to the crowd before the match and during half time, and make a direct appeal to fans to look around them and, if they see any of the culprits, call in the police.
2. Unlikely I know but I wonder if Roman Abramovich might be persuaded to break his long vow of silence and make a public appeal on the above grounds, allied to a strong anti-racist statement. Russia does not have a good record on this front, as black players who have played there can testify.
3. Teams of both clubs to take the field with a Kick It Out banner, and to be photographed together pre-match taking a common stance against racism. All players to wear Kick It Out armbands, or Kick It Out logos beneath their club crest, and Kick It Out training tops during the warm up.
4. Maybe go even further than that. Get rid of the shirt sponsor logo for a day and put Kick It Out, or UEFA’s No to Racism logo, on shirts of both teams.
5. Both managers and their staff to wear Kick It Out badges. I hope that Burnley’s coaches, even if not asked to do this, do so. We have had our own issues with racism in the past, and I fear the near all white nature of the Turf Moor crowds remains one of the consequences, and we have to take every opportunity to ensure racism never returns.
6. Jose Mourinho to use his programme notes and pre-match media engagements to signal his and the club’s utter abhorrence at what happened, and their view that the people involved will never be welcome at a Chelsea match again.
7. If the man who was abused can be found, he should be invited as a guest of the club, and Mourinho take the lead in giving him a standing ovation.
8. A club petition launched to identify the culprits and express support for the harshest possible punishment.
9. Kick It Out and UEFA No to Racism given free advertising space in the programme and around the ground.
10. Ensure black and white mascots and kit them out in Kick It Out t-shirts.
Mourinho is one of the main interviewees in my book, Winners and how they succeed, and he is without doubt a man possessed of great leadership skills, and a fantastic communicator. He is obsessed about football, and winning, but as a much travelled multi-linguist, he does understand the broader role of football in culture and in society. I think a few strong and sincere words from him would go a very long way.
I watched the Schalke-Real Madrid match on TV last night, and during half-time, they played that star-filled UEFA ad in which players of different nationalities – Messi, Benzema, Ribery, Bale and many others – say ‘No To Racism’ in their native languages.
All of them these days play in multinational teams, and there is not a top club in the world without a black or mixed race player in the squad. But what that Metro video shows is that despite all the efforts football, governments, media and police have made, racism is alive and well, and as stomach-churningly disgusting as ever.
Chelsea are in with a chance of three trophies this season, and I totally understand that winning them is their priority. It is actually something I want to see too (though not on Saturday) because Chelsea doing a Treble will be ‘good for the book,’ as my son Rory says.
But for now, finding these so-called fans, and making sure they are dealt with by the law enforcement agencies of France and the UK, has to be a priority for Chelsea too. If none of the above happens on Saturday, then I for one will feel we have not made the progress that the UEFA ads would like us to believe we have.
Reading in The Guardian today the quotes of a Chelsea fan suggesting the abuse was because the man was a Paris fan, or because the train was too crowded, just added to the stomach churn. They sang about their pride in racism, for God’s sake, and their apologist excused that by saying it related to John Terry’s racist abuse of Anton Ferdinand, not the guy’s skin colour. Just reflect on that for one moment. Perhaps Terry could use his programme notes in the same way as I suggest Mourinho does.
I love football, and I will be at the match on Saturday. I love it too much, say my partner Fiona and my daughter Grace, who last night said to me she felt physically sick watching the video, and added: ‘This is why I hate football. It encourages racism and hatred.’
I tried to explain that it was a lot worse when I was growing up, which indeed it was. Monkey chants. Bananas thrown on the pitch. Black players routinely booed when the ball came their way. Horrible, horrible, horrible. But that is not a defence, any more than the crowded train was an excuse. There simply is no defence for what happened in Paris. None. Unless football takes the lead in rooting out these people, and unless they see the inside of a French jail some time soon, then I’m afraid I will have to concede that Grace has a point.