Every
Friday, Southsider and blogger Michael McColl takes ALL CAPS “Away From
The Numbers” for a fan’s perspective on the Vancouver Whitecaps
.

Unfortunately, racism in football, as in all walks of life, isn’t going to be disappearing any time soon.

That’s not a defeatist attitude, but the sad reality of the world we live in. There will always be ignorant idiots somewhere, spouting their vile views.

Those of us searching Twitter on Saturday to find the latest news about Fabrice Muamba would no doubt have come across some of the vile, and downright disgusting, comments made about the stricken Bolton player.

Many of those had racist overtones.

Outraged users of the site challenged those involved, and many alerted local police in the UK, leading to at least one high profile arrest of a particular unsavoury Swansea University student. He has already appeared in court and is awaiting sentencing.

We pride ourselves in Canada in our multiculturalism. Vancouver, in particular, is a diverse city.

Thankfully a lot of the racist problems that still exist in football in Europe, especially eastern European leagues, haven’t found a way into Major League Soccer.

That’s not to say that MLS can hold it’s hands up as being free from racism. It can’t. It exists, as in all walks of life.

You just had to witness one drunken idiot at the Montreal game who was shouting racial abuse at players on both teams and there were incidents at Caps games last season as well. These aren’t Whitecaps fans.

Drink is usually involved of course, but that is never an acceptable excuse, even thought the Welsh student mentioned above tried to go down that particular route to no avail.

This weekend, the Vancouver Southsiders will be joining fellow Independent Supporters Council (ISC) members from across the United States and Canada in a stance against racism.

March 21st was The International Day For the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, so this weekend’s matches seemed an appropriate time for action.

At tomorrow’s Vancouver Whitecaps v DC United match, after the national anthem, the Southsiders will raise red cards to show unity against racism in football around world and here in Canada.

They are hoping all Whitecaps supporters will join them to recognize this ‘International Day’ and take a stand against racism.

The ISC are working with all its member groups to ensure that the same tifo is displayed in stadiums across the entire league.

Prior to kickoff the Southsiders will be distributing red cards to those in sections 248-254 of BC Place. The hope is that fans in other sections will bring their own red cards if they do not sit in one of those areas. Just after the anthem the plan is for all fans to raise them in the air and hold them until first kick, to ‘Show Racism The Red Card’.

Football in North America has a dynamic and rich history that is multiracial, and embraces the strength that comes with its diversity. The history of the sport here is unique from other parts of the world, in that a philosophy of inclusiveness has always been apparent in all of its aspects, including players, supporters, and management.

As football continues to grow in the North American continent, it is imperative that each of us takes responsibility in ensuring the diverse heritage and culture of the sport continues.

There are many recent examples in Europe, and some in the United States, where racism and homophobia have reared its ugly head.

‘Show Racism the Red Card’ works to increase players, management, and supporters’ understanding of the inclusive heritage and diverse culture of football in North America and to promote young people’s participation as active and responsible citizens in a growing multi-racial and diverse society, whilst providing tools and resources for management, supporters, and players to respond to bigotry in positive ways.

The aim is to harness the high profile of top soccer players as role models, and to grab the interests of, and educate, the larger community on issues of inclusion and opportunity.

Involvement of the leagues and/or teams to adopt anti-racism measures and inclusion of policies and practices, both on the field and in the stands, is vital and will provide team and league management the tools and framework to be able to swiftly deal with incidents of racist abuse and insults in a uniform manner.

Racism is unacceptable in any walk of life, not just football, but if you see such behaviour from anyone at Whitecaps games, please do the right thing and alert security.

Here at AFTN, we’ve been involved in anti-racism campaigns for a long time.

Upon hearing about the Southsiders and ISC campaign, I dug out some old printed copies of AFTN from our fanzine days.

In Issue 28 (our summer 1994 issue!) we gave away a free fanzine insert produced by the Football Supporters’ Association in the UK.

Called “The United Colours of Football – Let’s Kick Racism Out of Football”, the 16 page fanzine contained articles, cartoons and humour to drum home the anti-racism message. It was meant to be a one-off. It never could be, and it became an annual feature, given away by fanzines like ourselves up and down the land, and handed out at football grounds around the UK.

We actually took some copies of that issue of AFTN (‘United’ fanzine included) over to the US with us that summer when we took in some games in Detroit during the World Cup. Obviously we were ahead of our time in getting the anti-racism message across to future MLS fans!

You may feel gestures like the fanzine or Saturday’s red card protest do little to stamp out racism from the sport and everyday life. What’s the point you may say? It’s not going to change anything.

In the grand scheme of things it doesn’t, but standing back and not saying anything about the problem is even worse. It is our duty to let the racists know that we may not be able to change what they think, but we won’t be letting them share their views at the football.

So if you’re heading down to BC Place on Saturday, bring along your own red cards or head to the Southsiders section and grab any spare cards. No matter where you’re sitting in the stadium, stand loud, stand proud and let everyone know that you want to give racism the red card.

I want to end with quoting the last paragraph from that first ever anti-racism fanzine, as it’s still as relevant today, as it was then:

“Football is our game. All of ours. You can do something about it, and it doesn’t mean joining a political organisation. Those who would like to use it as a vehicle for their sick, bigoted views need to be told – ‘change your ways or get out’. Kick racism out of football.”

About the author:


Michael
McColl began writing about football in 1989 and has freelanced for
various newspapers, magazines and websites in the UK. He moved to
Vancouver in 2007 where he currently pens the “Away From the Numbers” blogs on Canadian Soccer News and contributes to Prost Amerika. Michael is also a member o the North American Soccer Reporters association.

He’s
a proud member of the Vancouver Southsiders supporters club, though his
views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the
Southsiders organization.

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