21 Feb 2015 | Football

Back in the Saddle again

Having taken a half season plus break from the world of blog I find myself lurching back to my old berth on the nag. And what’s brought me back? Racism.

I had always planned to return, but with a new range of subjects I have been working on that are still in pre-launch and a couple of weeks away.

So yet again it’s Chelsea Football Club that finds itself dragged into a fray but this time it’s not their captain (the one that caused issues in the past who amazingly is still there), but some of their fans. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-31564836  And let’s be clear, these, one assumes are not just the casual, Johnny come lately ‘glory seekers’ but people who spent money on travelling to Paris to offer voice and support to the team.

Before you think I’m going to construct an argument that suggests Chelsea are worse than most other clubs, I’m not. Believe me, I would love to because they do represent so many horrible things, but in all honesty I cannot make such a claim because the truth is that the whole world is becoming more divided, sectarian and hate filled.

As an Italian I am also highly embarrassed by recent comments made by Arrigo Sacchi  http://www.theguardian.com/football/these-football-times/2015/feb/18/arrigo-sacchi-italy-football-ethical-dilemma-racism-foreign-players and the fact that post the disaster of Euro 2014, that Carlo Tavecchio http://sports.yahoo.com/news/fifa-extends-tacecchios-racism-ban-worldwide-100554101–sow.html  was elected president of the Italian football association. Both men have made ridiculous statements that I do not wish to re-write. In these cases it boils down to their idea that an Italian person can only be a white european (or a naturalised South American of Latin descent). Essentially if you’re not 5’7”. swarthy, dark haired, slim and handsome, you don’t really count. Just look at how difficult it was for Zola to hold down a place in the national team!

In recent years I have taught communications skills to young Italians. From the very beginning I felt that racism was something they really  did not ‘get’. Getting ‘it’ is not easy if you’ve always lived in a uni-toned society and I have often found it hard to explain to some students that describing a person by their skin colour, or any other feature, is potentially insulting.

The easiest way I have found to help Italian people who do not wish to offend is to tell them that racism is simply bullying. It’s finding a way, even a small nuanced way, to make another person feel less than you. It begins at the ‘banter’ stage and escalates from there. Some people have replied that a nick-name is merely a description, but once they look behind that, the bright ones  can usually grasp the point. And this is my point…

The BRIGHT ones (usually, but not only  the females) do get it. Brightness here includes intelligence, empathy and an understanding that other people have feelings that should be respected.

The problem is that being a bully is a form of self-empowerment. What is required is a way of making people feel empowered by being tolerant and ‘nice’. It has been done before but is not easy.

In the meantime…sack the racists in power (where democracy allows) and lambast the Chelsea non-fans.