A week or so ago, I blogged about the issue of racism in the wake of the awful events in Serbia and quoted quite a lengthy passage from my own book Kicking Off.
As a consequence, I’ve actually been reading various sections of it over the last few days and am increasingly astonished –and not a little saddened- by how much of it is still current.
Now one of the charges I make in the book is that Kick Racism and the various anti-racism incarnations allied to football were starting to sit back on their laurels and had instead, become little more than a gravy train onto which all kinds of people were jumping.
Ironically, I was attacked fairly strongly at the time for saying that and yet here we are, over eight years later having the very same discussion. Although this time the accusation is actually being made by the players as opposed to some know-it-all git of an author and as a result is quite rightly receiving widespread support.
And it’s not just Kick Racism who have fallen into the post-John Terry/Serbia spotlight either. Thanks to players such as Jason Roberts and the Ferdinand’s, both the FA and the PFA are in the process of being given a massive and long overdue kick up the arse for their clear failure to take the matter of racism as seriously as they should have been in recent years.
This is all good and very positive stuff. We as the nation which gave the game to the world have a duty to champion the ideal of unity in football not just on our own shores, but across the globe. After all, we can’t rely on anyone else to do it. One only need look at the derisory fines metered out by UEFA and FIFA to see that. Don’t get me started on Blatter.
Yet amongst all this positive stuff has appeared a huge potential negative and that is the idea of a Black Players Union.
Now, I’m sure there are very good reasons why this is a good idea although in truth I have no idea what they might be –personally I have this pegged as little more than some oily little chancers idea to make an awful lot of money and raise his profile to previously unimaginable levels. However, that’s another debate altogether- but there are two very powerful ones why it is an extremely bad one.
The first is the obvious one and it’s the case that everyone is fixating on. For as I stated above, anti-racism is about unity. So if unification is the ultimate aim, why bring in something that by its very definition is divisive?
The second reason is less obvious and it’s certainly not one that’s been mentioned anywhere that I’ve seen, heard or read. That is the kick in the teeth it would give to the fans.
Because in the battle against racism at football, the foot soldiers are those who sit or stand on the terraces. We after all, are the ones who support, complain, highlight and when required, confront. Without us, there would be no Kick Racism out of Football. That is a fact.
And the reason we get involved is because we’re all in it together. Fans, players, clubs, media, everyone. A black players union would smash that idea at a stroke because they would be going it alone and we would suddenly be fighting not with them, not even alongside them, but for them. That puts a very different slant on things.
But just as importantly, it would infer that all of our efforts have not only been wasted, but are unappreciated. That might sound dramatic, but it’s certainly how I feel and I know from my inbox, Facebook and Twitter accounts that I’m not the only one.
Yes, there are problems and it is to their credit that a umber of black players are standing up and speaking out. But their fight is not with us, it’s with the union and the authorities and it’s a fight that they must take to them under the same banner as the one we fight under.
Because if they don’t, it could very easily backfire. Not only quickly, but badly.
Kicking off is just 99p to download on both Amazon and iTunes. Which is, I have to say, something of a bargain!
The other evening, whilst taking part in a late-night radio debate on the disgraceful scenes in Serbia, I was asked if I thought we would ever see an end to racism in the UK. My answer was an instant and resounding no. I then added that my thinking was based on the simple fact that we had never had a free and open debate on the issues of racism, immigration and multiculturalism in our country and more importantly, would never be allowed to have one.
When asked why not, I made the point that in my opinion it was because the powers that be were afraid of the answers the vast majority of the population would provide. I was cut off almost instantly. As proof of my point, that’s as conclusive as it gets.
Now let me quote something to you. It’s lengthy, but bare with it.
Racism and multiculturalism have become two of the key issues affecting the way we live but by allowing the anti-racist and politically driven lobby groups to occupy the moral high ground, we [as a society] have become terrified of openly questioning anything relating to race for fear that we will be labelled as racist. A fear that is especially prevalent amongst the white Anglo-Saxon and Christian communities who lest we forget, actually form the majority of the population.
As a consequence, they [the liberal-left and the anti-racist groups] have been allowed to get away with things that they really should not be allowed to get away with. We may laugh at the stupidity of banning piggy banks or replacing the seven dwarves with the seven gnomes but in their own way, each act of petty political correctness drives the wedge between the various ethnic groups ever deeper.
More importantly, by suppressing a much needed and long overdue debate about the impact these issues have on us all, we as a nation are clearly storing up huge problems. If only because ignorance breeds fear and fear breeds resentment which could, potentially, play right into the hands of extreme political groups. It doesn’t take a genius to realise that the implications of that would stretch far wider than the turnstile or the playing field.
However, racism is an issue which not only should be talked about it is one which we must talk about. Dialogue is after all, the only way we, as a society will ever understand things and we have to do that if we are ever to be rid of this most shameful of scourges. That will only happen when we are brave enough to allow everyone to have their say and more importantly, listen to what is being said. Tragically, even though we live in a supposedly free society, I cannot ever see that happening. Indeed, there is something to be said for the idea that if Enoch Powell achieved one thing with his infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech, it was to suppress forever any chance of anyone having a free and open debate about either immigration or race in Britain.
Ironically, the area of society that has done more than any other to combat racism in Britain is football. In recent weeks I have witnessed racist abuse being hurled by blacks, whites and Asians in shops, pubs and even at a motorway service station yet I can count on three fingers the number of racist incidents I have encountered inside a stadium in this country since I began writing in 1996 and two of those have been at non-league games. And I’m not alone. Even Thierry Henry has been quoted as saying that he has not heard any racist abuse inside a stadium since he came to play in this country yet still we routinely hear football being slaughtered. Why? Surely the fact that on the rare occasions an incident of football related racial abuse takes place here in England it is roundly and swiftly condemned by all parties is proof of how serious this issue has been taken. Similarly, the fury with which we react to abuse targeted at English players abroad must indicate how far we have come as well as how far others lag behind.
I’m not saying that we should sit on our laurels, but we shouldn’t be so self critical either. As fans, we should be proud that for the most part, the only colour we care about is the colour of the shirt and we should celebrate the fact that people come from all over the world to play the game here free of the abuse and intimidation seen all too often in Spain, Italy, Germany and most of Eastern Europe. We should also be thrilled that so many black players represent us at international level but equally, we should enjoy a smug smile of satisfaction that these days we don’t even really notice. All we actually see is eleven proud Englishmen and that in itself says everything to me.
That’s an extract from Kicking Off which I wrote in 2004 and to me, it’s sadly still as relevant now as it was back then. However, if there is a silver lining to the horrific events in Serbia this week it has been to highlight just how far we as a nation have come in the drive to defeat racism and as I wrote in the piece, no section of society has fought more valiantly than football. Although let’s be honest, as the John Terry affair has proven, whilst the fans continue to do their bit there is much to be said for the idea that football’s administration needs to up its game not least with an ounce to two of consistency.
But there is still much work to be done and the great game can’t do everything, nor should it even try. For sure as we saw only too clearly this summer, sport can be a fantastic unifying force but if we are ever to see a resolution to the cancer of racism in our nation and legitimately sit upon the moral high ground where we so richly deserve to be, it can only happen if we, as individuals, can freely and honestly discuss all of the issues associated with it.
The last I heard, this is a free country. So why can’t we?
Just a quick note to let you know that Amazon have now price matched most of my titles with iTunes so that the bulk, including The Art of Fart, are now just 99p. The only exceptions are The Crew which is free and Top Dog and Billy’s Log which will set you back £1.99.
So if you’re missing a book, now is as good a time as any!
This blog was written two years ago. Sadly, in light of recent events involving allegations made that some of our major supermarkets and motorway service station operators have banned veterans from selling poppy’s on their premises, it is more relevant now than it was when I wrote it. The fact that I have to even think that let alone write it is a shameful reflection of what is being allowed to go on in this once great country.
I am, it is fair to say, something of a patriot. Indeed, I am as proud an Englishman as it is possible to be and certainly follow that old mantra, English first, British second and European never.
To some of course, this will immediately label me as some kind of racist xenophobe but to be blunt, I don’t care. I’m too old, too set in my ways and have been through far too many mills to give a shit about what anyone else might think of me and as such, have neither the inclination, desire nor as far as I’m concerned, need to justify myself to anyone else. Take me as I am, or don’t take me at all. Simple as that.
I write the above for one very simple reason. You see as I wrote in my last blog, I have passed the point where I’m going to pull my punches and if something gets me fired up, then I’m going after it with all guns blazing and write what I actually think. This is one of those times.
In little under a month, it will be Remembrance Sunday and like the vast majority of the nation, I’ll be taking the time to pay my respects to those who made the ultimate sacrifice. In actual fact, as a veteran of the Falklands War I will once again be taking part in the parade past the Cenotaph in London as part of the South Atlantic medal contingent and am proud as punch to be doing so.
Now the build up to November 11th is always a poignant time for the British as there can barely be a family in the country who have not been touched either directly or indirectly by war either past or present. However it is especially so for those of us who have been lucky enough to serve in the military because to everyone who has done time in uniform the fallen and the injured were, are and always will be our comrades. There but for the grace of god and all that.
That’s also why the poppy has such a special significance for us. For the mere sight of a person wearing one indicates their support not only those who have served and given, but for those who continue to serve. Just as importantly of course, buying a poppy puts money into the amazing charities that support those suffering as a result of injury. Be it physical or mental.
Equally, it is the reason why we get so angry when we see stories about poppy sellers being harassed in the street or of groups planning to burn poppies as some kind of protest. For the poppy isn’t a flag or any kind of political or religious symbol and it most certainly is not any kind of celebration of war, it is a symbol of gratitude. Indeed, if you are anti-war (as most right-thinking people are) then the white poppy is an excellent way of signifying that.
But whilst I readily accept that anyone has the right not to wear a poppy if they so wish -the notion of free speech being at the very heart of our democracy which so many fought and gave to defend- what I do not and will not accept is the defacing or abuse of something which signifies so much. Because to do so is at best disrespectful, at worst incitement. It’s certainly provocative.
The irony is of course, that the scum who do such things can only do so thanks to the freedom those who made the ultimate sacrifice have provided for them. Yet of course they are too stupid to understand that. Instead, they simply take the piss and hide behind the law and the freedom which they seemingly so despise And worst of all, we allow them to do it. In some cases, they are even protected by the police whilst committing this most cowardly of acts because in this free country of ours, they have the ‘right’ to protest.
Well fuck that. What about the rights of the old boys who want to sell poppies as a way of paying homage to their former colleagues but who are spat at or abused when they try to do so? Why are they not being afforded the same kind of protection as they seek to go about their lawful business as the bastards who support those who seek to harm us are seemingly handed on a daily basis?
More importantly, what about the rights of the lads whose bodies still lie strewn and unburied across the Somme or Ypres? Or the poor souls who never made it off the beaches of Normandy? What about those who lie at the bottom of the South Atlantic or who lost their lives in Iraq or Afghanistan? They aren’t just names on a memorial, they are heroes. And this country owes them a damn sight more than simply standing by and watching as the vermin who we have somehow allowed to infest our society disrespect their memory.
For that is what they are doing, disrespecting. Yet at the same time they have the gall to demand that ‘we’ respect their opinions, their beliefs, their way of life whilst showing none toward ours in return. The hypocrisy is staggering and if it wasn’t so tragic, it would laughable. But not only must it stop, it must be stopped fast.
Now I absolutely acknowledge that what we are talking about is a tiny minority of a minority but I seem to remember another minority stepping out of line not so long ago and the law of the land going all out to stop them and exercise control over pretty much everything they did. Something it succeeded with great efficiency and stunningly quickly. Yes, I know it might be trite to bring football into this but as a precedent, the war waged against hooliganism isn’t actually a bad one. So in the same way as laws were rushed through to seize passports from suspected offenders and impose banning orders on those convicted of football related offences, given that this problem seems to be increasing each year why haven’t laws been rushed through to afford the poppy -and for that matter, our flag- the status of a national sacred symbol with the result that if you desecrate it, you can expect the full force of the law to come down hard upon you?
I for one would wholeheartedly support such a law and with the poppy such a source of pride and importance to so many and the flag now more a symbol of unity than hate thanks to it’s long overdue rescue from the right-wing, I can’t imagine many people would be against it. So why not?
After all, we can’t make people wear the poppy and nor should we even try. We can’t even make people respect it. But we should certainly not sit back and let anyone disrespect what it means. For to do so dishonours the memory of those who made this great nation what it is.
However, until such time as those who are supposed to reflect the opinions of the majority see sense, let me put on record one simple fact. Burn a poppy or abuse a veteran trying to sell them in my presence, you’re fucked.
That’s a fact.
The Crew continues it’s quite astonishing run at #1 on the free sports book download charts and is now well into it’s second year at the top! It’s also been receiving some great reviews which is always heartening (and if you haven’t left one, why not?).
If you use iTunes to download books, you might be interested to know that with the release of Wings of a Sparrow approaching, we’ve slashed the prices of all my books with most, including The Art of Fart now just 99p! The Crew and Everywhere We Go are still free so just click on the following link to download all or any! iTunes
Hopefully Amazon will follow suit fairly quickly as they operate a price matching policy however, you can let them know about the lower price by clicking on the relevant link on the page of the relevant book.
poppy appeal, british legion, ISIS, muslim, Britain, Bastion, Falklands, army, navy, RAF, military, war, WW1, WW2
Someone asked me the other day what, if anything, was the point of a blog.
Now admittedly, the person concerned isn’t the brightest of buttons and so it was pointless my trying to explain the complexities of social networking and eBook marketing so I simply said ‘it’s a giggle.’ An answer which met with one of those grunts which suggested that I’m a pretentious self-important git. Which could be considered to be a fair point.
However, as I reflected on the conversation later, it struck me that I have actually kind of lost sight of why I actually do blog. Because as the blurb on the right of this screen says all too clearly, one of the primary aims of this exercise was to provide a platform for me to let off steam. Or in other words, to rant.
I then realised that if that was my mission statement, I’ve recently been failing miserably. For instead of blogging when something pisses me off, I’ve taken to writing about it on Facebook which all too often results in my being dragged into debates with people who, in far too many cases, shouldn’t be allowed unsupervised access to any kind of electronic device let alone the internet.
But then I realised that there is another reason. And with it comes an admission.
You see ever since I started writing, I’ve held back. Not in my books obviously, but whenever I’ve written anywhere else. In addition, I’ve refused point blank to speak about certain subjects on either radio or TV and have similarly declined requests to provide quotes or interviews for newspapers.
The reason is that I’ve been scared. Scared of damaging any hope I might have of a career in the media by saying something that someone sitting in an office somewhere judges to be too far over the line. In short, I’ve been something of a coward.
I was discussing this at football yesterday with my mate Neil and it suddenly struck me that my cowardice has backfired. Not because if my move into the media mainstream was going to happen it would surely have happened by now, but because I have been letting myself down. Equally, I have been letting other people down.
For over the last couple of years, one thing I have come to realise is that whilst my opinions on everything from life generally right through to the state of the country might not sit well with the liberal left who rule the media, they do reflect those of the vast majority of people I talk to. Be they in the street, at games, within my own family and even, bizarrely, at a British Film Institute event!
In many cases, those people are frustrated. Frustrated because their opinions are not simply being ignored, they aren’t even being aired. And as someone who shares that frustration, surely I, as a writer with a profile of sorts, should be the one giving those opinions, my opinions, that voice.
Of course I bloody should!
So from this point on (or at least from when I come back from my holiday), I promise that when I blog, be it related to anything from poppy burning filth, racist footballers or useless lying politicians, I won’t hold back. If I think it, I’ll write it. And more frequently.
Even making this statement, I feel cleansed. More importantly, I feel unleashed.
Finally…. just a quick word on the subject of books. Thanks to everyone who continues to keep The Crew and Top Dog so high in the charts. The success of The Crew in particular has stunned everyone but then again, it is a bloody good read.
If you haven’t read it, it’s still free so why not give it a try. You have nothing to lose… other than the £2.50 it will cost when you buy Top Dog afterwards. Which of course, you will! Won’t you!