Seeing red at racist chants


by NADEEM BADSHAH

RACIST chants by football fans are creeping back into the game due to the rise of far-right figures and negative comments by politicians about immigration, campaigners have said.

The Football Association (FA) is investigating alleged racist chanting from a section of Millwall supporters during their FA Cup match against Everton last month.

A video posted on social media showed fans singing they would “rather be a P**i than a Scouse” in reference to the visiting side.

The south London club said anyone identified and found guilty will be banned from its stadium for life. The club’s anti-discrimination group Millwall For All was set to meet the Football Supporters Federation (FSF) this month to launch a focus group.

Sports minister Mims Davies is holding a summit to discuss the spate of racist abuse in the game and is inviting the FA, the Premier League, the Professional Footballers’ Association and anti-discrimination groups such as Kick It Out to come up with a plan to tackle the issue.

Dipu Ahad, a Labour councillor and anti-racism activist in Newcastle, fears there could be similar incidents at matches due to the stirring up of “hate” by politicians in the UK and the US.

He told Eastern Eye: “Racism has never gone away from society, it just changes into targeting different communities.

“In the past there were monkey noises towards black players, and it has moved onto Islamophobia and [bias against] other groups. Islamophobia and hate are becoming
legitimised.

“My fear is the rise of hate crime and the far right. They have been around for a while and now have legitimacy [due to people] like (US president) Donald Trump and (far right extremist) Tommy Robinson.

“There were campaigns by Kick It out and Show Racism the Red Card in the 1990s which helped, but deep-rooted racism has never gone away.”

He added: “We will see more of it on the terraces. The government’s rhcetoric and politicians like (former British foreign secretary) Boris Johnson’s comments about Muslim
women are legitimising hate and have to be held accountable.

“A lot more work needs to be done in schools to break barriers.”

Last month’s chants were also condemned by Kick It Out, which runs the Fans For Diversity campaign with the FSF. It brought together two fan groups – Lincoln City’s Lady Imps
and Bradford City’s Bangla Bantams – to meet over food last year.

Piara Powar, executive director of the Football Against Racism in Europe group, said: “‘Rather be a P**i than a scouse.’ Haven’t heard that one for a while… And rarely in
south London.”

Fiyaz Mughal, founder of Tell MAMA, which records anti-Muslim incidents, said supporters
found guilty should be banned.

He told Eastern Eye: “The racist chanting from a small section of Millwall fans shows that racism and prejudice need to be tackled on an ongoing basis.

“A zero-tolerance approach to racism and prejudice should really mean a zero-tolerance approach to it. Anyone found chanting racism should be barred from attending
future matches.

“We simply can’t have such behaviour in 2019.”

Other recent incidents include some West Ham fans chanting an Islamophobic song about Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah during a match last Monday (4). Campaigners believe that the growing number of Muslim, Hindu and Sikh footballers – including Salah, Leicester
City’s Hamza Choudhury, and Stoke City’s Danny Batth – is helping to tackle negative stereotypes.

Research by Omar Salha at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London showed 67 per cent of fans questioned felt players who followed the Islamic faith were integrated in football. And more than half thought having Muslim players counters stereotypes about the religion.

The success of Egyptian forward Salah led to Liverpool fans chanting the lyrics: “If he’s good enough for you, he’s good enough for me,/ if he scores another few, then I’ll be
Muslim too/ If he’s good enough for you, he’s good enough for me,/ sitting in the mosque, that’s where I want to be.”

Anwar Uddin, from the FSF’s Fans for Diversity campaign, said: “The FSF and Millwall have been in discussions for some time about arranging a focus group where the issue of anti-discrimination, and the club’s initiatives surrounding it, will be debated.

“The incident [against Everton] brings into the sharp focus the need for supporters and clubs to work together to combat racism.

“We look forward to doing this with Millwall to prioritise new initiatives at the club.”