It’s amazing how much the world has evolved over the years isn’t it, from computers taking up an entire room to handheld laptops no bigger than a book. Everything around us seems to evolve. My mate’s even got a car that can drive itself! I sat in it and thought Captain Kirk was headed to the Bridge. It was that high tech! Even the way we build and create structure and enterprise has evolved and moved on.

The game of football has embraced evolution more than many other sport, from fag packet tactics and route 1 football to the big lad, to i-pads, fitness gurus and levels of analysis that seems more like NASA than people discussing what position a player should be in, or a move they made. Yes, the beautiful game has evolved, but something seemingly hasn’t, and, by all accounts, in many cases has no desire to, a stain on the canvas of the game of football known as racism.

Now despite phenomenal work done over the years by the likes of “Kick it out” to educate both players and fans alike, it appears there is still a long way to go. As years went by the Internet has grown, and, in doing so, it gave birth to the problem child that is social media. We have seen both the good and bad of social media, with the good coming recently from Marcus Rashford’s quite frankly incredibly moving campaign to get this Dickensian government to successfully reverse its decision to leave the most vulnerable children in our country to starve, as free school meals were withdrawn. The levels of humanitarianism displayed following the brilliant young Mancunian’s lead was the best of social media. What a guy, right?

Sadly, we often see the worst. Despite everything I’ve just said about Rashford and the accolades he received, and quite rightly, for being an exemplary role model for kids today, he has become the most recent of young black players to have received racist abuse online. Really? I hear you say, the lad’s a national treasure for Pete’s sake! The abuse came following Manchester United’s 0-0 draw against Arsenal on Saturday night. I have to applaud Marcus for refusing to share the screen shots detailing the abuse he was sent, sacrificing unmasking those responsible for a far classier approach highlighting the need for education to ensure this doesn’t keep happening. It served as both a way to deprive the racists of any notoriety and to emphasise the need for a change of mindset.

Many have taken the opposite approach to Marcus and actually named and shamed their abusers. Arsenal legend Ian Wright, who’s long since retired but carved out a great career as a loveable pundit (& close mate of our very own Alan Shearer), was threatened and abused in a vile attack by an 18-year old. I wont give his hateful comments air, but I will say this cretin even insinuated that he wanted Wrighty to catch Covid 19! His folks must be proud. Wrighty actually took to social media to not only expose this deplorable individual but even “forgave” the lad, which showed a level of class and benevolence this kid may never be capable of.

I can’t go through every individual case of racial abuse towards players from BAME communities (if I did, this would sadly be a novel instead of an article), but one case that particularly sent shivers down my spine involved Wilfred Zaha. This time the abuser was 12 years old… That’s right.. 12! What the hell has happened to this kid at 12 to think that is acceptable? To abuse another human being, just because of the colour of his skin? So it got me thinking.

Who is responsible for this increased hatred towards black players? You have to look at education. Have they had any? From their parents? From their schools? Or have they been generationally damaged by hereditary ignorance? I’m of a firm belief that nobody is born racist, prejudiced, misogynistic, or homophobic. It’s how they view the world around them and their willingness to understand and accept people’s differences, and to celebrate the fact it’s those differences that make us unique. At 12, you rely on your family to mould you in the early stages of your life and help to develop your conscious mind towards the world around you.

As this is a football fanzine I’m conscious not to dive too far into the world of politics, but the fact that racism and xenophobia have been on the lips of the very people elected to lead us doesn’t help with the quest to educate. With extreme cases of the likes of Trump and everything he stands for, whose hateful rhetoric has torn an entire country apart and incited hatred and violence that many thought we’d long since confined to the history books of shame written by the human race, to our own Prime Minister’s distasteful comments towards the Muslim community and their use of the burka (again I won’t give that rhetoric oxygen either) does little to encourage respect or appreciation of other cultures. And as for Brexit? The less said the better about that!

Back to football though, and, for as long as I’ve watched the game and long before that, players have been subject to disgraceful racist abuse from the crowds at grounds. From Cyrille Regis and John Barnes having bananas thrown at them when playing for West Brom & Liverpool respectively, to Raheem Sterling having racist bile hurled at him by a Chelsea fan captured live on Sky TV like he was less than human. The fan responsible ironically would’ve been cheering him in England colours, and probably had done, which only emphasises the needless reasoning behind these people’s thought processes.

Clubs can ban fans, which many have done, but, especially in these times of a pandemic where fans can’t go to grounds, the social media platforms have been packed to the rafters with hate-fuelled trolls just waiting to unleash on as many as they can. It’s not only racism that they like to turn their hateful fingertips to. The recent case involving Karen Carneyprovides an unsavoury reminder that sexism also exists in the game in far more corners than we’d care to admit. It’s no wonder that, even in 2021, we don’t have any openly gay players coming forward. Would they be attacked just for being who they are in a similar way? After seeing what we’ve seen, you can’t blame them for remaining silent.

In summary, despite all the campaigns, taking the knee, and continued high-profile players of today and yesteryear speaking out, there’s still a lot that needs to be done. If we want to reach the point, not just as football fans but as a society, where equality is the norm, where we don’t see someone’s colour, someone’s faith, someone’s gender, someone’s sexuality as anything other than just a part of what makes them who they are, and have no earthly desire to weaponise it for malicious intent, then we need to change. Failure to change, failure to evolve will only result in us continually having a beautiful game.. And an ugly truth.

Chris Currie @wig82