by Chris Tobin

Football, that beautiful game; inclusive for the common people, for the multitude of nationalities regardless of where you lay your weary head. I remember as a young child growing up that most of my friendships were indeed initiated and had foundations built upon a football field – with teammates and those intent on kicking seven shades out of my growing bones.

My first team at junior school under 9s we had Simon Simpson; his nickname was Simple for obvious reasons which was later shortened to “Simps”. Thirty odd years later when I see him I still address him this way. We would also have a player called Ewan Doherty who had a head of Ginger hair – I guess you know what we called him, the same as me and my friends still call him to this very day – GINGE.

I will leave it up to you to decide whether we were particularly cruel as children, or as I suspect we were just 9 year olds growing up in the 1970s finding our feet and enjoying ourselves. The key point here is the distinction of what is agreed to be offensive and what is not – what is offensive regardless of one’s own opinion or perception, something that society as a whole has found unacceptable, that we all can agree.

Where the murky line becomes more shadowy is when the media choose to distort what we should accept and what they themselves thrust upon the public as unacceptable, in their role as custodians for us all. It is a jingoism against its very own readership, unfortunately many choose to be carried along with this type of hysteric headlining. This from some newspapers, which weeks earlier were happy to print their own versions of stories that would verge on homophobic or racist reporting, suddenly picking up on non-stories and reporting them as sensationalist headliners.

This week Liverpool footballer Dani Pacheco sent a message of good luck to his Liverpool teammate Glen Johnson, which according to the media reignited the racism row that Luis Suarez started, by using the word “Negrito” in his tweet. Pacheco stated that he had always referred to Johnson in this manner and it was a greeting that Johnson felt no malice from. Who the hell do the white journalists that wrote this sensational story think they are to dictate to Glen Johnson, a black man, how he should react?

There are many footballers with a wide ranging selection of not so complimentary nick-names, this is symptomatic of a football changing room, it is how many teams get that defined feeling of a TEAM. Of course the line which you dare not step over can be tiny, fraught with a danger, but footballing friendships very rarely end with the choice of ones words, more with intent.

Alvaro Recoba is known as Chino – which translates to Chinese.

Romario was known as Baixinho – which translates to Shorty.

Faustino Asprilla was known as Gacelo Negra – which translates as Black Gazelle.

Not forgetting those of you with a religious disposition Robbie Fowler was known as GOD.

Why should I have a faux rage at the way anyone greets their own friends, what business is it of mine – unless of course it genuinely upsets me and my own social conscience. The Daily Star who were amongst a few who printed this story, would suggest that “Many Followers” were outraged with the use of such a word – surely they know where the un-follow button is, or maybe these sensitive sorts should be on the front line of the next Anti-Racism march against the BNP and its like? Maybe actually doing something against real in-your-face racism would be too much for those outraged by the use of a very common word in Spain and Spanish speaking countries?

Which leads me on not so nicely to those running the game of football – the same organisation that backs the anti-racism Kick It Out campaign, but then decides to hold one of the biggest footballing events on planet Earth in two countries that have both had their share of negativity around alleged racism.

We must first travel back in time to the Fifa World Cup of 2010 which the governing body decided to hold in South Africa, a country that had suffered racism and discrimination through many years of Apartheid, the system of racial segregation, up to 1994. On that occasion football was showing itself as a forward thinking and standard bearer. Unfortunately the decision made from Uefa to hold a tournament in the countries with some of the worst incidents of racism and discrimination seen in Europe is clearly a mistake.

When we have Uefa or FIFA members of colour, coming out and saying they are not attending the European Championship Finals on the grounds that they fear for their own safety, then clearly something is wrong. This organisation that will hand down bans to those found guilty of using racist language yet fail to protect supporters or players from such abuse from members of the paying public.

With all the publicity surrounding this event with the talk of racists and racism, I feel sure it has opened itself up and enabled those groups to have a forum to peddle their bile. When Platini says that if any black players leave the field of play because of racist chants aimed at them they will be disciplined, it just beggars belief.

My own fear is that a hero is in waiting, similar to Tommie Smith and John Carlos who both made Black Power fists at the 1968 Olympics. It would change the history of sport over this century.

If indeed this is to happen, I for one would support it wholeheartedly – Mario Balotelli ripping off his shirt as he leaves the field of play, and in a two fingered salute to his protagonists to reveal a t-shirt with a picture of Platini on it with the words………… “C’est Le Vie”.

Such is life.