Euro 2012 & the Glass House of British Society
Last night, England played its first game of the Euro 2012 tournament. Leading up to this tournament there has been much talk of how Black players and citizens would be subject to the persecution of their racist hosts. The Panorama programme exposed shocking levels of racism within the host nations, and the monkey chants toward Black players during Holland’s practice sessions a few days ago demonstrates that those concerns are all too real.
It is right that Panorama made their programme, and that discussion ensued highlighting the failings of these societies, especially when gifted with such prizes as hosting a Euro football tournament. However, whilst we focus on the issues of other countries, we should also all keep our eye firmly on the ball when looking at ourselves, and our failings. Though we have made great strides towards equality and representation of BME people in both football and society, it should never be forgotten that we still have a long way to go.
Before watching England’s first Euro 2012 group game I had spent considerable time considering whether to watch it or not. I struggled with the prospect of supporting a team whose starting eleven would include a player on a charge of racial abuse. I’ve always been passionate about my national team, and I’ve always been passionate about equality. This time the two have come head to head.
I chose to watch the game. The Terry-Ferdinand case is yet to be heard and ultimately, I feel a person is innocent until proven guilty. Jurisprudence is one of the great things of British society, even though sometimes the charge is emotive. Equality should apply in all areas, including the right to innocence until proven otherwise.
However, since the Terry charge there have been many domestic incidents in football that show that in this country we are only a short way down a long road - cases include the Suarez - Evra incident, racial abuse of Fabrice Muamba and Stan Collymore on Twitter and England player Micah Richards was forced to quit his Twitter account over the racist abuse he received. Even the ongoing case with Terry and Ferdinand has further highlighted the issue of racism with Ferdinand reporting ‘extreme’ racial abuse from the terraces at Chelsea since reporting the incident. These are just a few well documented examples, the more you scratch the more you will find.
I hope England do well at Euro 2012, there is much to be proud of. Last night, our team’s starting eleven featured six Black players with eight in the squad, and of course, Joleon Lescott scored England’s only goal. The balance of racial identity in our squad shows we have achieved much, but the many incidents this year alone in our own country shows we have much more to achieve.
It is good to see programmes such as Panorama being made, because it shows that in our country issues of race and equality are important. However, we should not think that because we highlight the issues of other societies, that ours is free from criticism, or free from examination. Sometimes this can be overlooked.
It is easy to point the finger elsewhere, and thereby absolve yourself by way of accusation. But the true measure of a person, and indeed a nation is the way in which you measure yourself, not others. And on that we are still coming up short. Let’s focus on educating the world, but let’s focus on doing that through example, as well through lecture.