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Does football hinder the fight against racism?

ENGLAND'S NEW FACE: Footballers Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Raheem Sterling, Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge

UNLESS YOU are hiding under a wifi-less rock, it is hard to avoid the World Cup currently taking place in Brazil.

But along with the enjoyment of watching people from other countries compete comes a surge of patriotism and there are still reported incidences of racism on the terraces and in the pubs.

So does football with its raging passions hinder the fight against racism?

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MAURICE MCLEOD
NO!

As a child, I wasn’t allowed to go to football matches.

My mum had seen far too much of the ugly side of the beautiful game to let me be involved. The men in my family were into sports like cricket and boxing and there was no way she’d let me go alone.

By the mid-70s the National Front already knew what future far-right groups like the English Defence League would later learn - the football terraces were a gateway to the hearts and minds of white working class men. Their Bulldog magazine was widely distributed at matches and the atmosphere both in and around grounds was particularly intimidating for black and brown faces.

It is often said that football just reflects the society we live in and that the level of racism in the national sport just mimics attitudes in society as a whole. Sometimes though, football can do more than simply reflect - it can lead the way.

Overt racism on the terraces still exists but, thanks in part to the work of organisations like Kick it Out, this has become a rarity in our country.

Black and Asian people can now largely go to matches without constantly looking over their shoulders.
There is a saying that familiarity breeds contempt, but I think it breeds acceptance.

It must be hard for the children of racists to swallow their parents’ ethos fully when some of their heroes look the same as the people their parents are vilifying.

Football still has a long way to go. Black managers are still few and far between and there is a distinct lack of British Asians in the top tiers of the game. But the microcosm of football allows us to tackle some of the ills that blight wider society.

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ESTHER AKINNUWA
YES!

The World Cup is finally here and for a month it will be all some people can think about.

But let’s narrow the World Cup down to what is going on in England and how we relate to each other.
I keep seeing England flags on cars, windows, logos on clothes and more.

If we’re honest with ourselves we know that the St George’s cross/flag has dual connotations; it either signifies England as a country or extreme nationalistic groups such as the EDL.

Now stay on that thought. The fact that it can signify the latter means those that share extreme views can now use this time to incite hatred hiding under the disguise of patriotism. Patriotism has the potential to birth racism. This is not to say that to love one’s country is wrong but it gives room for those with extreme right-wing views to express hatred.

An example is when a car covered in England flags went pass me; I thought nothing of it until the driver shouted the N-word at me.

Football has a two-fold effect.

It’s common thinking to assume that sports can bring people together despite their race. But we must also be aware that it can be very exclusive as well.

I would just feel very awkward waving an England flag despite the fact that I class myself as British. But that topic is for another day.

Does football hinder the fight against football? From my lenses, yes.

* Our communities speak with many voices. Each week we bring you opposing views on a topical issue affecting black people. The arguments are crafted by the talented pool of writers from Media Diversified (www.mediadiversified.org) which aims to make the British media speak with more voices. The debates are chaired by Maurice Mcleod.

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