I wear two hats when I write this blog of mine. First and foremost, I manage a small charity in a small Scottish town called Dumfries. Ours is a front door that opens onto the darker corners of the crumbling world that is Britain 2015. We hand out 5000 emergency food parcels a year in a town that is home to 50,000 souls. Then, as you can see from all of the book covers above, I am also a thriller writer. If you enjoy the blog, you might just enjoy the books. The link below takes you to the whole library in the Kindle store. They can be had for a couple of quid each.

Monday, July 16, 2012

You're bang right Rio - It's Football, Racism and Twisted Knickers

A decade ago I wrote my second of fifteen books. It was called the ‘Drums of Anfield’ and much to my surprise it wound up being discussed in the national press and I found myself in the Radio 5 Live studio in London. Why? Was I famous? No. Did the book win a bunch awards? No. was it a multi national best seller? Absolutely no.

Basically the media got interested because it was a kids book that revolved around racism in football. And as we have all seen, there are few things to stir the media blood like racism in football.

Why did I write it? You probably see me as some sort of sandal wearing holier than thou type. Not really. My partner of 26 years is Black British and we have two mixed race boys, both of whom are Liverpool to their toenails and have been since the age of four. Had they chosen the dark side and followed the Mancs, a call would have been made to the Social and they would have wound up in the care system. So much for the sandals.

We had just moved to Scotland and it was pretty clear that both Dyonne and Courtney would have a few years of always being the only brown boy in the class: never an easy thing. They were bound to get called names and the book was my idea of trying to make the point that belting some clown who called them a nigger would land them in more bother than the caveman they thumped. I may not be an open toed sandals man, but I do have a poster of Martin Luther King on the wall.

At first I never had any thoughts of publishing the book – It was basically a bedtime story. Anyway, one thing led to another and after a few months I was chatting with about the book with Five Live’s Ian Payne and a few million lads in their vans – this was the pre TalkSport world.

The book took me to some pretty interesting times and places. A launch at Anfield was attended by Ian Callaghan who had always been my all time idol and meeting him made it worth while being a writer. Liverpool FC commissioned one of the Brookside screenwriters to write a drama version of the story which was performed to 4000 school kids under the Centenary Stand at Anfield.

More unexpected was a call I received on day from an outfit in Glasgow called ‘Sense over Sectarianism. This was a real New Labour classic made up Rangers FC, Celtic FC, The Catholic Church, The Church of Scotland and Glasgow City Council. Could I rewrite the story for them? Set it in Glasgow and talk about sectarianism? They wanted 10,000 copies to dish out to every high school pupil in Glasgow. There wasn’t any cash in it. There never is. But there was a racing certainty of a ticket to an Old Firm game and that was a thing I had always aspired to.

So I did the research and wrote the book and duly attended a Celtic Rangers match at Ibrox. Never again! The levels of mouth frothing sectarianism were up there with anything the Bosnian Serbs could conjure up.

And all of a sudden I was to attend a launch event at Hampden Park. And the media were invited. And a room full of them turned out. Celtic fielded a player. Rangers sent two. And the Lord Mayor turned up. There was just one hitch – none of them were willing to talk about sectarianism. Which basically left a Koppite from Lancashire to field a bunch of aggressive questions from the Scottish redtops. Cheers for that.

The whole thing was box ticking. Are you doing anything to address sectarianism? Course we are! We commissioned a book for schools. We’re doing our bit. But they wouldn’t talk about it.

And so to Ibrox. When the teams walked onto the pitch they played Tina Turner’s ‘Simply the best’ at full volume. Nothing wrong in that, surely? Well maybe there was. 45,000 Rangers fans sang along with frantic gusto – ‘Fuck the Pope and the IRA!!!’ Maybe the good and the great failed to hear that bit? Or maybe they just liked the income from selling season tickets to head banging nutters from East Belfast.

The whole thing made me cynical about political correctness, lip service and the general bullshit of the football authorities.

That cynicism has hardly been eased by the events of the last few months. Maybe you can make some sense of these three incidents because I certainly can’t.

Louis Suarez and Patrice Evra have a spat and Suarez calls Evra ‘Black man’ in Spanish. Evra is livid and reports it. The press goes ballistic and the FA fine Suarez £40,000 and ban him for eight games. The Liverpool fans get all paranoid and seem convinced the world is against them and sadly King Kenny agrees. Things are a bit heated and febrile at Anfield for a Friday night FA Cup tie against Oldham. All of a sudden it is clear that the Oldham left back – a young black lad – is in tears as a result of something that has been said from the Kop. Stevie Gerrard does his best to console him. I feel sick and ashamed and gutted for the lad. His dream night has just been nightmared.

Over the next days the caveman is traced and duly arrested. He attends court and is charged with using racist language. He pleads not guilty. Your honour! I never called him a ‘Black Cunt’ – I called him a ‘Manc Cunt’. Witnesses were called and they back up the story. The caveman’s geography obviously draws on the fact that Oldham is a part of Greater Manchester which is enough to warrant a scream of ‘Manc Cunt’. Well the Magistrate is happy enough with this. ‘Black Cunt’ would have been beyond the pale but ‘Manc Cunt’ is deemed to be fine and dandy and the caveman walks free.


And then of course the TV cameras pick up England’s gallant leader John Terry calling Anton Ferdinand a ‘Fucking Black Cunt’. Now Anton plays for QPR and QPR is a hell of a drive from Greater Manchester so there seems little chance that Captain Fantastic can claim to have called his fellow pro a ‘Funcking Manc Cunt’ even though his brother does indeed play for the Mancs. Unlike the Suarez affair, this one becomes a police matter and the FA back off. It can’t go to court because the Chelsea players are far too busy, unlike the rest of the public who are threatened with charges of contempt if we miss a court hearing and most of us tend to work ten hours a day rather than just a morning’s training but what the hell – we’re not celebs so we don’t count. In the end the old American adage of the justice system was proved correct – ‘Guilty until proven rich’. Terry’s Fancy Dan legal team concoct a tale that big John has merely repeated words spoken to him by Anton even though Anton denies it and nobody heard or lip read him. Never mind such detail. Somehow Terry’s brief seems to have managed to hypnotise the magistrate.

Not guilty.

It’s good that things are now all cleared up and we know how to behave properly.

”Daddy, is it OK to call that black man ‘A Manc Cunt’?”

“Of course son. On you go.”

“Daddy. Is it OK to call that black man a ‘Fucking Black Cunt’?”

“Of course son. On you go.”

“Daddy. Is it OK to call that black man a ‘Black Man’?”

“Good God son! Where are you getting that kind of filth from! Your grounded for ever and ever and you’re eating broccoli for tea for the next three years you filthy little racist pig!”

Which actually makes the whole thing a tad uncomfortable. Let’s just assume for a moment that the much maligned Senor Suarez was actually telling the truth. You see, up here in Bonnie Scotland, if you are tall someone will often as not greet you with the words “Y’alright there big man”. If you’re small, they may well say “Y’alright there wee man.” Neither of these things are a problem. Why would they be? After all, there is nothing wrong with being either tall or short. It would be a different story if someone said “Y’alright Fat Man.” Or ‘bald’ man. Or ‘spotty face’ man. Or ‘Unsightly birthmark on your face’ man. All of these are a problem because they highlight something the person isn’t happy about. So have the good folk of Uruguay got it so very wrong when they say ‘Y’alright Black man”? The whole point of not being racist is being 100% certain that there is nothing wrong with being black. And if there is indeed nothing wrong with being black, then it stands to reason that there is little wrong with calling a black man and ‘black man’.  


How very lucky we are to have wise old Magistrates to unravel these tricky issues for us and make everything clear.

So Rio, you’re bang right mate. We’re all getting our knickers in a twist.   

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