Liverpool FC fuelling racism
There are not many clubs in the world that can compete with Liverpool FC when it comes to its supporters living and breathing a strong sense of pride and integrity. But on Saturday, Liverpool FC did not live up to its own high standards of decency.
Instead, the club's lack of moral leadership allowed the racial bigots to win the day during a heated FA cup fixture with Manchester United. Throughout the game Manchester United's Black captain Patrice Evra was booed, jeered and racially insulted by the Liverpool fans.
Even if judged on pride and passion alone, there are only a few football clubs across Europe that can compete with Liverpool. Glasgow Rangers and Celtic easily spring to mind, but the pride of these clubs are bound up in religious sectarianism in which football too often becomes secondary to hatred. Fever pitch is such at the Turkish club Galatasary, that visiting teams are greeted with the chilling 'Welcome to Hell'. One could also point to the intensely proud team of Atletico Bilbao which is the only club in Western Europe that picks players born from the Basque region, or the best club on the planet right now, Barcelona. But the pride of both clubs is in no small measure, an articulation about a national Basque or Catalan identity, manifest through their local football teams.
But with Liverpool it's different. There are no religious, national or regional demands which are played out through the local team. Liverpool FC grew to be a global football club through a working class ethos of unity, courageousness and striving to be the very best club in which people around the world would want to be part of. Three things above all encapsulate the very best of Liverpool FC. In 1989, Liverpool FC and the people of Merseyside took on and defeated Rupert Murdoch during an era in which he and his papers were truly invincible. The Sun accused Liverpool fans of 'robbing the dead' and 'urinating over police helping the dying' during the tragic Hillsborough football disaster. More than 20 years later and despite numerous apologies from News International, most people in Liverpool will not forgive Murdoch or buy his papers for such gutter accusations and injustice.
Then there's the club's anthem, 'You'll never walk alone'. This in itself is impressive; it binds people together, particularly in an unprecedented form of solidarity. And it was solidarity that led the club's owners to name the most famous end of their ground 'the Spion Kop'. The Spion Kop is named after the 'Battle for the Spion Kop', small mountain in South Africa which the British and the Afrikaans fought over during the Boar war in 1900. A small and heavily outnumbered group of British soldiers valiantly held out against the Afrikaans. Thousands made the ultimately sacrifice; mainly brave mostly working class men. But they managed to hold out. Liverpool FC, like many clubs at the time, decided to pay their own tribute to these gallant men. The last key element to Liverpool FC is success. Again, through working class heroes such as Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley, Liverpool become world beaters.
Their present Liverpool manager, 'King' Kenny Dalglish knows about all of this. He was central to the golden era of the club winning seven league titles, three European cups and a hatful of other domestic trophies, and yet it is he above all who blurred the lines at Liverpool FC between loyalty and integrity. His unequivocal support of his young gifted player Luis Suarez, who was found guilty of grossly insulting Manchester United's Patrice Evra, resulted in a shocking backlash that unleashed latent racism within many Liverpudlians. Suarez insulted Evra no less than ten times during that game, including remarking, 'No hablo con los negros', which at best is translated as, 'I don't speak to Black people, and at worse, 'I don't speak to n....rs'.
With such disturbing allegations Dalglish abandoned his moral compass and set about rubbishing Evra and throwing everything, including the 'kitchen sink', in defence of Suarez.
Every player was forced to wear shirts in defence of the Uruguayan, including Liverpool's only Black first team player Glen Johnson. Not surprisingly those fans, brought up on loyalty and standing together, rallied to Dalglish's cry to defend their man. In one short, mismanaged episode, Liverpool fans have been ushered back to the bad old days of football racism. A few weeks after the incident, a Liverpool fan wearing a 'we support Suarez' t-shirt, racially abused young Black player Tom Adeyemi during an FA cup tie against Oldham. And on Saturday, during the whole 90 minutes, huge sections of the Anfield crowd booed Evra, hurling abuse, including calling him a liar and some of a racial nature.
It has taken years of hard work and endeavor to get rid of the worst aspects of racial abuse at our football stadiums. Football, by its very nature, is drama-filled and emotional, all of which is magnified by huge cheering crowds. It is for this reason that the very best mangers understand the balance between loyalty, morality and leadership. Liverpool may have won on the pitch, but the behaviour of Dalglish that has fuelled racism before, during and after this game can only mean that the club's great reputation around the world has been tarnished. Liverpool FC, indeed football, deserves better.