Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Twitter Vs Facebook

I like to think of myself as something of a Twitter pioneer. 

I found the site before anyone I knew back in January 2009.  Admittedly it was to be a full 18 months from that first incarnation to evolve from the single tweet I had posted at that point.  As any user knows, there comes a time when you suddenly experience that moment which resembles an epiphany as everything just falls into place.  For me personally the platform represented an ideal resource for promoting the Chagos cause I work on, as well as sharing my renewed desire for writing.

Facebook on the other hand is something I really struggled with.  I guess my main failure was using the social network almost as I would use Twitter.  That was to try and engage people on the site with issues I felt strongly about.  Political campaigns, Chagos petitions, articles, documentaries, news reports and the rest.

A short while after experiencing that moment of truth on Twitter, I remember someone posting a tweet which to this day is the expression I have continued to quote since: 

"Twitter makes you want to have a drink with people you don’t know while Facebook makes you want to throw a drink over people you do know."

In the last twelve months I have become more and more disillusioned with the entire Facebook experience.  I struggled to understand where it could have a role to play in the changing world we inhibited, even more so as our use of the internet was geared towards mobile technology.

Yet a recent experience gave me an opportunity to analyse something which some of us are unfortunate to go through.  And if you’re like me, you get to ride the rollercoaster not twice but three times in eight years. 

Ten days ago my friend was shot dead in his own car.  Coupled with the events of September 2004 and December 2006 it was to be the third time that someone I knew was to be taken violently.  A second victim to gun crime alone.  The trouble with experiencing that much grief in such a short space of time is that when the next train pulls into the station, you can still see the lights from the departing carriage which hasn’t quite pulled away yet.  The result is that emotionally you are effectively crushed between the trains.

Given the fact that I had not been anything like into social networking as I had been in 2004 and 2006 as I was in 2012, it provided an opening for an interesting experiment to see how the platforms vary in terms of their usefulness when dealing with grief.  And it really didn’t take long to recognise the contrasting qualities as well.

Twitter doesn’t do personal or emotions.  It’s very clinical.  It doesn’t care that my friend left a four week old child behind, or that I had been with him two days before his death.  It doesn’t care who mourns him, the devastated family and friends who have even more questions to pose, none of which will be answered adequately.

Facebook is all about emotions; it cares about not just what is being felt, but by whom.  It provides the support structure to work through the initial trauma and shock all the way to the hope that is needed to overcome the despair.  It provides a forum for friends to come together to recall happier times, to reinforce the pleasant memories which seem so distant in the dark days after such an event.

It is here that we understand where the platforms help in different ways.  Facebook will provide a lot of the immediate assistance needed in the days that follow such a tragedy.  Twitter is incapable of providing anything like this in the aftermath of such disruption, but will provide the stage for the long term questions which will arise once the initial dust has settled.

Twitter will be the platform which will answer the broader questions such as why gun crime is once again rising in Nottingham after almost a decade of continual decline.  It will analyse the social impacts of the event, in much wider terms.  It will offer long term solutions to the conundrums which will prevent another family going through the grief of burying their son or daughter.

Facebook cannot replicate this; such discussions are largely ignored or even bypassed by members of our network for fear of evoking controversial confrontations with people we otherwise get on with.  

And herein lies the key difference: we reserve total and complete jurisdiction over who we wish to follow on Twitter, while on Facebook we are largely confined to people we are related to, once worked with or went to school with.  The reality is we rarely find ourselves falling out with members of our Twitter network because they have been handpicked to reinforce our own views, usually politically.

It would appear that Facebook does have a role to play in the future of social networking.  There are some things that Twitter just cannot do.  As someone who probably holds the record for account deactivations in the last twelve months, I would probably say that is something positive to take away from the experience.  But going forwards, Twitter still represents the platform I will continue to utilise more, if only because with the past ten days aside, I am more concerned with the quest for justice for the Chagossians than how Jack and Jill are feeling today.

I was in a long term relationship during the episodes of 2004 and 2006, so even as someone who should know this bumpy road all too well, it was still a new journey for me to travel this time around.  A young lady provided a level of support and maturity which belied the fact that she was eight years younger than me.  Words will never begin to describe the debt of gratitude I owe, and this post is dedicated to her as well as Germaine, Duane and Natasha.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Cunning Chelsea Conspiracy Can't Catch Me Out

“Then put your little hand in mine, there ain’t no hill or mountain we can’t climb.  Babe.  I got you babe.”  The unmistakable melody of “I Got You Babe”, a track which became the background music to the 1993 Hollywood blockbuster “Groundhog Day” starring Bill Murray.

Visitors to my blog will start to feel like they are living out the nightmare of Phil from the movie, an unmistakable feeling of déjà vu that somehow we have been down this road before.  And we most certainly have.  As a matter of fact in the 22 months since I started this blog, the subject of race has cropped up no fewer than six times, which equates to just shy of a quarter of my posts.

This month alone I could have written about the ridiculous arguments which followed the decisions of Rio Ferdinand, Jason Roberts and several other players to refuse to wear “Kick It Out” T-Shirts as part of the “week of action”.  Indeed in some ways this is an extension of that debate.

As I have addressed previously, I am passionate about the subject of racism in football.  I love the sport but sadly I have been exposed to the unpleasant side of the beautiful game.  Granted, it was an experience at a young age, but one that nonetheless was to have a profound impact on my views in later life.

So I understand that some will struggle to comprehend my views today regarding the recent events involving controversial referee Mark Clattenburg and Chelsea’s Jon Obi Mikel and Juan Mata.  I am of the opinion that the story has been conceived in the Chelsea dressing room and is nothing more than a hideous attempt to amplify the sense of retribution against a referee who admittedly had a bad game. 

Ok that is wrong.  He didn’t have a bad game, he had an awful one.

The idea of referees favouring Manchester United is not a revolutionary theory.  It is one borne out of years of controversial “rubs of the green” which have been in favour of the club.  As an Arsenal fan we have not forgiven nor forgotten the highly contentious decisions which coincided with our visit to Old Trafford eight years ago this month.  A match which ended our record breaking forty-nine match unbeaten run.  The very name of Mike Riley is enough to turn even the most mild mannered of Arsenal fans into a mood of rage bordering on psychopathic tendencies.   Yes I do include myself in that assessment.

Riley made some dreadful decisions that day, many of which undermined the very integrity of referees as a whole.  In more recent times this has been replicated by referees such as Howard Webb and indeed Clattenburg.  Yet even in my wildest anger, I would never have suggested that the source of such decisions were ever based on racism.  It was unashamed favouritism without a shadow of a doubt, though never racism.

Last weekend Chelsea Football Club made two very serious allegations about the conduct of Mark Clattenburg.  They centre around the idea that he racially abused Mikel and used inappropriate language against Mata.  If this allegation had been made by the vast majority of other clubs, I would probably take it a little more seriously.

That it is being pursued by Chelsea makes the matter for me a lot easier to judge.  This is the club that allowed its player, Ashley Cole, to enter a court of law and lie under oath in order to ensure that its captain, John Terry, was acquitted of racially abusing Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand.  This is the club that refused to sack Terry as captain, despite being found guilty by the Football Association of the same offence.

That’s right Chelsea.  The same Chelsea who sacked two players in the last decade over drugs and attempted to take the moral high ground by stating that they were a family club.  That’s right; this was all about morality and not a convenient opportunity to offload two out of favour players minus a lucrative pay off to terminate their contract.  Interesting then that their moral compass was nowhere to be seen when they failed to sack Terry, or Cole for that matter.

Of course it is possible that the allegations regarding Mikel and Mata are true, and that Clattenburg did indeed take the scourge of racism in football to another dimension.  In the months and years to follow this will look like a very ill-judged piece.  But I will argue that for someone like myself to draw such conclusions shows how far the reputation of Chelsea has been dragged through the gutter recently.  To the extent that the club has lodged a very serious complaint and I along with others have dismissed the idea out of hand as being a conspiracy dreamt up amidst the bitterness of a first defeat of the season.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Heard It All Before (Had To Shut You Down)

Trust is an unusual attribute.  It can take an eternity to earn and be lost in the blink of an eye.  Once someone or something’s credibility is eroded, it is gone and the notion of trust is lost.  We see this everywhere in daily life from marriage breakdowns to chapters of employment drawing to a premature conclusion.  It is something we all accept, a common social norm, cardinal to the rules which define the society we live in.

So why is it then that the vast majority of people in this country still reject these social rules when it comes to dealing with the police? 

Certain police forces resemble the serial adulterers at times (you know the ones I mean).  The one who breaks their partner’s heart a thousand times or more, and yet they are taken back time and time again.  We all look at the downtrodden partner with bemusement, many with pity. But we are in no doubt that they are foolish and should stop placing their unwavering faith in this untrustworthy person who deserves their loyalty no more.

And I must at this stage make the distinction because unfortunately one can make lazy sweeping generalisations which place everything together and it is wrong.  For example I have lived in the East Midlands for eleven years now, ten of those in Nottingham.  Reflecting on that period, I do not hold the dossier of stories which I have previously highlighted.

In some ways Nottinghamshire Police are very different from their London counterparts.  I do not remember seeing Nottingham officers on duty for the carnival performing an embarrassing “wiggle” which looks like your uncle at one of those 90s family reunions.  Like the boring images that are so cliché of Notting Hill Carnival for example.  I can be tedious and highlight Nottinghamshire’s failure to apprehend James Brodie, but one can forgive such a blemish when remembering that there is little concrete evidence to support the theory that Brodie is even still alive.

The way in which Nottingham has been rehabilitated from the lawless wild west of less than a decade ago is an achievement which they must also take credit for.  Not solely.  But they deserve to be commended all the same.

No.  This is not about Nottinghamshire Police.  This is specifically about two police forces, one of which I have written about twice in the past.  The other is a force who I hold in the same contempt as the Thatcher government for their role in the miners’ dispute of the mid 1980s.

The reasons why I hold the views have been addressed previously so will avoid going over old ground again.  Instead I wish to focus on recent news, and how related to the context of those historical events, the time has come to approach the issue of our relationship with these two forces in a more enterprising and contemporary way.

The release of the Hillsborough files have confirmed what people who relate to views outlined in my previous posts have long since suspected.  That South Yorkshire Police deflected attention from their own failures in the disaster by slandering the reputations of Liverpool fans in the form of doctored evidence and downright lies.  Actions which took place 23 years ago granted, but which were as good as repeated during Sir Norman Bettison’s initial reaction to the report last week with the following response:

"Fans' behaviour, to the extent that it was relevant at all, made the job of the police, in the crush outside Leppings Lane turnstiles, harder than it needed to be.”

The obvious suggestion will be to throw Sir Norman out of the force, despite his subsequent apology, which naturally should be welcomed.  But how on earth does this solve the wider problem which led to the culture of corruption that didn’t just affect a police officer here or there, but practically everyone who was involved with the investigation into the Hillsborough disaster.  And what about those who helped to conceal all of this?  We are no longer talking about purging a few bad eggs, we are looking at an entire force decayed to its roots.

This, coupled with conduct during the mid 1980s at the time of the miners’ dispute, poses severe questions as to whether this force has the confidence of the public it is supposed to serve.  The scars of these episodes will serve as reminders for years to come, anytime an issue arises questioning the integrity of this force; people will question whether they are being furnished with the full story.  This break down in trust will not be repaired.  It will be borne into the collective DNA of anybody in that part of the country, and indeed anyone else who for one or reason or another will have dealings with this force in the future.  It will haunt them like the scar of Cain from the biblical tale for generations to come.  The term South York’s police will become a paraphrase in modern popular culture which will be defined as corruption, dishonesty and serial abuses of authority.

It is a lot like the Metropolitan Police in London, although they are a bit further down the road.  They have already had their “Hillsborough report moment” in the form of the Macpherson Report.  But we have the benefit of being a decade down the road to realise that this force is just as loathed as it was then, if not perhaps more so, if that was even possible.  Names of victims of their disgraceful conduct when attempting to conceal their mistakes are so imprinted on our minds that a collection of terms require no further explanation: Sylvestor, De Menezes, Duggan, Tomlinson, Hackgate.  All of which took place after the force was supposed to be improving, when the mistakes of the past were supposed to have been addressed.

Recently Andrew Mitchell has found himself caught up in an almighty row over a bicycle and a Downing Street gate.  It is alleged that he swore at a police officer who was supervising the entrance gates.  It has all boiled down to a politician’s word against that of a police officer.  Politicians don’t exactly have the best reputation but it is still interesting to see how the public immediately takes the police officer’s account of events at face value, as if it is inconceivable that a police officer would lie. 

I mean why on earth would a police officer lie?

We then hear the reaction of the Police Federation and all of a sudden there is a fishy smell of manipulation in the air.  The same kind of stench that was billowing out across the country last summer during social unrest as politicians lined up to denounce the cuts against the police.

So what do we do?

The solution is staring us in the face.  When institutions have become discredited, they cannot be saved.  To return to the theme of an unscrupulous lover who lets us down: we need a divorce- a full and final settlement.  We can’t go on pretending that they will change their ways when history shows us that they never will.  The names and victims will change, but the similarities are frightful.

Now before anybody wonders, I am not proposing we abolish the police as an institution and live in a society which resembles the scene from Robocop 2 when law and order breaks down.  A vacuum from the absence of a police force would lead to social mutiny and cannot be tolerated in any modern society.  Not one that would be expecting to function with accepted social rules anyway.

However the time has come to have an informed debate about adopting examples set in Northern Ireland and assessing the merits of a long term solution to the issue of credibility.  This is the territory which had a police force, the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), who sometimes appeared to be an extension of the Unionist movement and were not considered to be meeting the needs of the Catholic community.  By the end of the 20th century they lacked the authority to perform their roles.  The proposal to disband the RUC was met with derision at the time but over a decade on the replacement force, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), doesn’t possess the same historical baggage.  It is allowed to perform its day to day duties without the shadows of human rights abuses against children for example.

Were all of the RUC dishonourable?  That’s a difficult one to answer with any degree of certainty.  I prefer instead to use the fruit bowl analogy, and I repeat it a lot when I talk about institutions like the Metropolitan Police.  The theory goes that good, honest and honourable people go into the Metropolitan Police with the best of intentions: to uphold the law.  Sadly they are exposed to unethical, usually illegal, behaviour within a culture of corruption.  The end result is that they too eventually become part of the landscape.  Just like a fresh healthy selection of fruit, placed in a bowl of rotten produce long past their best, which should have been hurled into the garbage many moons ago.  We hope that the new fruit will bring healthy life back to the rotten flesh, that in time it may indeed become edible again.  But it’s not.  The result is that the entire bowl becomes contaminated and inedible.  Do we throw the bowl away?  We should.  But instead we go back to the shop and purchase even more fresh fruit under this misguided philosophy that somehow we can reverse the laws of nature. 

We cannot make rotten fruit good no more than we can hope that a bad police force can be turned around.  We have to finally reach the point where we say enough is enough and draw a line and start again.

It will be expensive, disruptive and will upset a lot of people.  But it is a short term pain to ensure that we find a long term remedy. To carry on, in the vain and deluded hope that “this time they will change” is not just silly but pathetic.  We have to face the truth and shut down the police forces which no longer retain the faith of the public.  To not do so is living in denial and resembling the gullible partner who takes their philandering partner back “one last time” despite accepting that the final chance had long since been spurned. 

I am not hearing this anymore.  It is like white noise to me.  Because as Sunshine Anderson once said so eloquently, I really have heard it all before.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Vulgar Vultures

Channel 4 Television approaches its thirtieth year of broadcasting this November.  They have rightly earned plaudits for their readiness to push the boundaries of what otherwise may be found from the stables of other broadcasters.  This can be traced back to their approaches to soap operas, in the form of Brookside, to their commitment to American Football, long before the sport had a fanbase here.

Channel 4 was created two years before the first Olympics to generate a profit, the games of Los Angeles 1984.  That it should happen just 8 years after the loss making debacle of Montreal was remarkable, an Olympiad which became a byword in later years for irresponsible financial planning. 

Channel 4 held no broadcasting rights to the 1984 Olympics.  4 years later, in conjunction with ITV, the fledgling broadcaster covered its first Olympic games.  The BBC, as always, provided round the clock coverage supplemented by their daytime recorded coverage.  ITV and Channel 4 shared the rights, with the former providing daytime recorded coverage from overnight events while Channel 4 broadcasted live through the night.  ITV was the senior partner in the relationship, mainly due to their history of covering several previous Olympic games.

Channel 4 and ITV never covered an Olympics again due to the fact that they were not considered commercially viable.  An example of this is best illustrated by the struggle for advertisers which Channel 4 attempted to fulfil resulting in the broadcaster often being forced to fill designated slots of adverts with musical montages due to the absence of commercials.  ITV as the daytime Olympic broadcaster did not suffer the same embarrassment which meant it was a case of Channel 4 sustaining heavy losses for their one and only foray into the Olympics.

The BBC held the rights to the 2012 London Olympics, and thanks to an extension to the deal earlier this year, will be exclusively hosting the games until at least 2020.  Apparently there was no possibility of any commercial broadcaster hijacking the glittering potential of an event which would only occur once in our lifetime.  It represented an Aladdin’s cave of revenue for any commercial broadcaster and yet somehow Channel 4 is creaming off the benefits.

Just how was this possible?

In the summer of 2010 Channel 4 were awarded the rights to the 2011 and 2013 editions of the IAAF World Athletics Championships, an event which had been broadcast solely by the BBC since it made its bow in 1983.  The capture was significant because these World Championships would take place either side of the London 2012 Olympics.  A hugely significant window coinciding with a period when commercial interest in Athletics would peak in the UK.

The move raised eyebrows within media circles and followed on the back of events six months earlier in 2010, when the rights for the 2012 London Paralympics were surprisingly awarded to Channel 4 Television.   Critically the broadcaster pledged more money accompanied by more hours of broadcasting on their flagship channel. 

The BBC had broadcast every Paralympics since 1980 and would have been seen as a long term “safe pair of hands” to continue to invest in Disability sports beyond the peak of 2012.  They had won several awards for their coverage of not just the Paralympics, but many other sports including wheelchair tennis as part of their Wimbledon output.

Channel 4 defended their sudden, albeit incredibly convenient, interest in both Athletics and Disability sport with claims that they wanted to provide an innovative approach to broadcasting these sports.  It was a credible assertion at the time, given their history of covering minority sports. 

But upon closer inspection this is nothing of the sort.  The 2011 World Athletics Championships were heavily criticised in terms of UK TV coverage thanks to the organisation.  This is further reinforced by the fact that the 2012 Paralympics TV coverage is fronted by a team hired from the BBC.  Jonathan Edwards and Claire Balding are amongst the names that have been leased by Channel 4 Television for the duration of the games.  A host of other commentators and analysts also make up the contingent. Far from offering something new and innovative, the BBC team has simply been temporarily outsourced to a commercial organisation. 

Channel 4 has no long term interest in Athletics, a fact demonstrated when the BBC won back the rights to the 2015 and 2017 World Athletics Championships.  The rights to the 2016 Paralympic games in Rio will be awarded in two years time, but it doesn’t take Nostradamus to predict that the Paralympics will be returning to the BBC.

How can one be so sure?  Well the Olympics will be airing at hours that are commercially undesirable for Channel 4 and they will once again promote commercial needs above and beyond their duties as a public service broadcaster, as has been seen in the period since 1988.  Already Channel 4 have shown in the first 24 hours how their commercial needs take precedence.  The high volume of commercial breaks has upset some and the coverage being shunted off to an obscure sister station to make way for commercially valuable Channel 4 programming such as Deal or No Deal probably won’t have impressed games organisers LOCOG either. 

Therefore the notion that Channel 4 is trying to promote minority sports is invalid.  They are capitalising on a unique commercial opportunity to serve their own agendas.  A dubious honour at the best of times, but when you consider that what is being exploited are minority sports, then it makes the whole episode all the more vulgar.

Exploiting a minority is not why Channel 4 was established.  It goes against the very grain of the identity and fabric this organisation was intended to be.  If the broadcaster is serious about committing to minority sports then it should do so long term rather than its current ruthless strategy of opportunistic “cherry picking”.

Channel 4 needs to remember why it was created and the function it is intended to perform.  At present it resembles a vulture, reaping the rewards of everyone else’s years of investment, all in the name of a lucrative pay off to probably off-set the loss of that perennial money spinner Big Brother.  

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Nou Pays Nou Fierte?

This week the most high profile trial in Mauritian legal history concluded at the Supreme Court in Port Louis.  This post is dedicated to the friends and family of Michaela McAreavey.  A young lady lost her life two days into the second leg of her honeymoon and she deserves justice.

The North East costal village of Grand Gaube is where my father’s maternal heritage lies.  It’s not a horrible area, but it’s not the right kind of place for me to be, at least on holidays anyway.  It’s remote, quiet, and dull.  There is also an enormous language barrier.  In places like Grand Baie, English is widely spoken along with French and Creole.  In Grand Gaube, if you don’t speak French or Creole you have a major problem.  It’s a friendly place, and everyone is warm and welcoming, but if you can’t communicate with the locals even simple tasks like a visit to the shop will prove to be a logistical nightmare.

However it’s against this backdrop that probably makes it an ideal destination for honeymooners.  Grand Baie is very much not the kind of place you would want to be situated for a romantic couple of weeks to consummate the marriage.  The traffic, bright lights, noise from bars, clubs and restaurants and general ambience is the complete opposite to what is to be found in Grand Gaube and would be a honeymoon from hell.  Grand Baie is a 24 hour town, there is always somewhere open.  By contrast Grand Gaube goes into hibernation around the time the sun sets and any sign of life is suspended until sunrise.  With the exception of the odd passing vehicle which will inevitably attract attention.  You’re more likely to find a bicycle in Grand Gaube than a motor vehicle.

The murder of Michaela McAreavey was a shock of biblical proportions.  Not only because such incidents on tourists are unprecedented, but also because of the area where it occurred.  If this had happened in Grand Baie or Flic En Flaq, it still would have been astonishing, but it was nothing compared to the disbelief that greeted the news that this tragedy occurred in Grand Gaube.

The eyes of the world were suddenly on Mauritius.  Perhaps in a way that had not been seen since Kaya and Berger Agathe died in such controversial circumstances sparking civil unrest in 1999.  This was the moment for Mauritius to show what I had been arguing with people like my dad about for the last seven years- that Mauritius was evolving, was improving rapidly and could handle such a high profile investigation.

My friends both here and in Mauritius often describe me as being the number one fan of the island, so for me to write this is extraordinarily difficult.  I can see their faces now as I sigh and say “ayo, pas facille!” But Mauritius has failed. Quite spectacularly it must be said.  Mauritius failed Michaela McAreavey, her family and friends, and the people of Grand Gaube who have lived with this unbearable shadow for the past 18 months. 

In a desperate attempt to impress the world with a swift resolution to the crime, it would appear that mistakes have been made.  Fundamental basic errors were committed, some of which have placed the suggestion that Mauritius is a modern democracy on very dubious ground.  It was long known that these suspects had been subjected to forms of violence during their interrogations.  We will never get to the bottom of how Kaya died, but nobody accepts the official version which is that he had an epileptic fit, not when one of his dreadlocks had been torn from his head.  To think that a dozen years later the same stupid attempts to manipulate the judicial process are still being used is not so much disappointing but an absolute abomination on the reputation of every single Mauritian.

We should welcome the news that there is to be an inquiry into how there was a failiure to secure a criminal conviction.  Just like 1999 the rainbow nation faces a monumental crossroads as it considers her next step.  In the ashes of this doomed trial, a golden opportunity arises for Mauritius to show the world that it is ready to make the leap into the 21st century.  No stone must be left unturned and a complete review of the Mauritian Police force must take place.  Mauritius is very famous for its water sports facilities, but some of the allegations mentioned during the trial suggest a very different kind of water sports.  Some activities of which are more commonly associated with that byword for human rights abuses, Guantanamo Bay.  I do not want my island to be considered in such terms.  It is humiliating and a stain on every single one of us, wherever in the world we reside. 

A lot has been made of the treatment of the husband, the fact that he was questioned and detained for five hours following Michaela's murder.  This is an area I am quite keen to be looked at again.  I don't believe that five hours is anywhere near enough time to fully exonerate someones involvement.  In Britain suspects can be detained for 48 hours without charge and longer with a magistrates permission.  One of the first things I would like to see take place as part of a review of the case would be to arrange for Mr McAreavey to be questioned again, everything must be revisited.

There is so much I love about Mauritius and it is such a tragedy that Michaela’s family will probably never wish to experience the truly wonderful side of a place which really is paradise.  I don’t just mean the turquoise sea, white sand and scenic landscape.  I mean the people, the attitudes, the social cohesion between so many different races and the fact that the political debate largely takes place on the left of the spectrum.  When Mauritians talk of their national pride, it’s about what the island represents as well as the wonderful weather.  In many ways because of all of this, I often speak of Mauritius as setting an example to the rest of the world.  Mauritius can’t teach other places on the planet to have beautiful beaches and a sublime tropical climate; those are qualities attained purely by luck.  It can however show the rest of the world how an almost “United Nations” style melting pot of different races and religions can live in harmony together.

I want Mauritius to be the one to set that example.  I dream of the day when fact finders from all over the world are sent to Mauritius to study the way of life and to export this brand of beauty to the rest of the globe.  That prospect seems as remote away as ever if we are conducting legal investigations with behaviour that had no place in the 20th century, let alone the 21st.

There is a creole expression which is used a lot around Independence Day.  “Nou Pays Nou Fierte” which translates broadly as “our island is our pride”.  Mauritian pride has taken a beating these last few days, it is vital that we come out fighting to restore it as soon as possible.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Don't Scrap My Soca

Growing up in Tottenham was unique and for me a truly privileged experience.  In school nobody had even heard of my father’s birthplace, Mauritius, but in Tottenham this was completely different.  One road seemed to be Rue Ile Maurice: my dad, the next door neighbour and another across the road were all from our tiny island!

Therefore it was no surprise in 1985 when a Mauritian man from Enfield decided to open a nightclub just next to South Tottenham railway station called the “Sega Club”. For the next seven years, this was the heartbeat of the Mauritian community in London.  Its legacy has continued to live on thanks to the number of functions which continue to take place in the area.  This was no normal nightclub.  This was somewhere where Mauritian families would converge on like some kind of religious sacrilege.  Trust me; the Port Louis bar on West Green Road was not a patch on this place.

There’s a debate to be had about whether it’s acceptable for children as young as 3 or 4 to be in an environment where alcohol and cigarettes are openly being consumed on the premises.  Personally speaking, I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.

The name Sega Club stemmed from the local music of Mauritius, Sega, which as any listener will tell you,  is not too dissimilar from two Caribbean brands of music called Calypso and Soca.  But the similarities do not end there.  One of the biggest musical genres in Africa, Zouk, was born not in Africa, but on the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, which as any resident will of course confirm, speak the same creole dialect as that which is spoken in Mauritius, Seychelles, Rodrigues and Reunion Island.  The Sega Club would never play anything but zouk, soca, calypso and sega.

It was surreal. Whilst most kids of my age were learning words to songs like “star trekkin” and “when will I be famous” I was too busy memorising the lyrics to “Nani wine” and “ton polo”.  I learnt so much from the whole Sega Club experience, as young as I was. It was to leave a significant footprint in my life and without doubt shaped me into who I am today.  It showed me how music could unite a community far away from their origins and share magical aspects of their culture.  That and my passion for soca music which continued long after the Sega Club had closed its doors. 

That road would lead me to Notting Hill carnival on the August bank holiday of 1998.  I had an incredible time singing along and impressing everyone with my near-perfect karaoke of “Who let the dogs out”.  The track had been heavily plugged during the West Indies v England cricket test series earlier that year. The weather was rubbish but it hadn’t detracted from my enjoyment and I immediately decided I had to return the following year.  And the year after that.  In fact since blowing my very first carnival whistle I have missed just three: 2004, 2006 and 2007.  My ex-fiancee hated it, she had nothing like the appreciation for soca I harboured.  She would tolerate it, but it was no coincidence that the three carnivals I missed all occurred during my six year relationship with her.  For anyone who loves soca music as much as I do, carnival is our event.

However sadly I have encountered much criticism for my love of carnival over the years.  Back in 2001 I probably met my strongest resistance to my intentions, which was the year after two people had been murdered.  What ultimately convinced me to attend that year was a good old touch of sentimentalness.  The event was taking place barely a few weeks before I would be moving to Derby.  My friends attended almost out of loyalty to me, a testimonial like ritual, as if it was going to be my last ever carnival and that life would never be the same once I had left London.  It was another resounding success.

When I left London I still did return for carnivals, with the exception of those mentioned earlier.  But I now wanted to find out how people interpreted carnival in other parts of the country.  So in 2002 I did Derby carnival and in 2003 Nottingham carnival.  They are very different from the Notting Hill carnival and I do believe what spoiled my enjoyment of those initial events was my insistence on making the comparisons.  They are staged in parks, albeit with a street procession, but it’s a much lower key affair.  I regard them as being warm up events before the main act at the end of every August.  They have previously raised ideas to put Notting Hill carnival in Hyde Park, but what makes Notting Hill so special is that it is on the streets of London.  I would be horrified if that ever changed.

People find it difficult to believe that in all my years of attending carnivals I have never seen so much as a slap across anyone’s face. I am not disputing that there are some undesirable elements to carnival; I know it happens, I am just saying it never happens anywhere near me.  I know where to go, where to avoid, where to find everything I need.  I know who to go with, who not to go with, and most of all I know what attitude to bring.  It’s a winning formula, it works, and it serves me well while ensuring I always leave carnival desperate for more.

In 2008 I was actually caught up in the beginning of the disturbances.  Me and my friend were following behind the final soca sound system truck heading back towards the garages when suddenly the crowd seemed to be separating. There was no huge fuss, just a human Mexican wave. I arrived home and switched on the TV and then pieced the puzzle together.  But at no time during any of those moments did I ever feel in danger, threatened, intimidated or scared.  Nor did anyone around us. 

There would have been some that night who wanted to find out what the fuss was about, to follow where the people were running towards behind us.  Maybe they were involved with some of the disturbances that night, maybe they were just curious.  But the point was all of the rest of us had no interest in finding out what was going on.  Our agenda was simple: to wave our flags, blow our horns, and sing soca songs very loudly.

The summer of 2011 was as we all know a difficult one.  With the Hackney carnival cancelled, the Nottingham carnival was next on the calendar and was under the spotlight amid intense pressure from all sides to cancel the event.  The event was subsequently scaled back to one day, but amidst tight security, the carnival went ahead.  Considering the event was staged just days after a Nottingham Police station had been firebombed as the riots spread their way from Tottenham, it was a bold move. 

I was in no doubt it was the correct decision. On a personal level it had been an awful week due to my own connections to north London.  But also for the people of Nottingham, we needed a community event to lift the city.  The event was a huge success with just two arrests for minor offences.  In doing so it delivered a firm signal of defiance against those who had tried so hard to get the event cancelled.

When the Notting Hill carnival arrived I was very relaxed.  I had seen it all before.  The majority were begging me not to go, and I just shrugged my shoulders as I knew there was nothing that would stop me attending. What concerned me if anything was if others held the spirit and determination of me and my friends.  When we left the tube station on the Saturday evening of Panorama I will never forget the moment of being pushed aside as a military style train like procession of police officers barged past us heading towards where the carnival warm up party was taking place.  My heart sank and I feared that this over zealous approach would scare people away.

Yet when I turned a corner and saw the trucks, the crowds of revellers who had defied the appalling weather to defiantly come to save our event, I broke into the widest smile possible.  It was a smile of relief, but also of immense pride.  Pride; that on the back of the biggest press campaign against the event in a decade, there was nothing that would stop us coming out to keep our event alive. I bumped into a lot of old faces that day and we all said the same thing: this is our carnival and we need to protect it.

This year I felt a moral obligation to attend the Tottenham carnival. I was extremely disappointed when I learned that it had been cancelled.  The full reasons will no doubt become clearer in the days to follow, but it would appear that Tottenham has missed an opportunity.  An opportunity to bring a community together, through music, to create some positive images of a part of London which will always be close to my heart, farcical football club excepted of course.

Tottenham; the place that gave me my first introduction to cultural pride, the appreciation of soca music and experience how a community can come together to build something special.  I hope the carnival does return to Tottenham again.  I want to experience the pride of carrying my Mauritian flag through the streets of Tottenham, blowing my horn and singing my soca.  Most of all I want to witness the sea of happy faces in a place that probably deserves more than most to smile again.

So with a nod to Desmond, I plea to the good people of Tottenham: we need our carnival back.  Please don’t scrap my soca.

Thursday, 31 May 2012


I once described Panorama, the BBC’s long running flagship current affairs programme, to someone in a rather unique way.  I likened it to the French national football team, although in truth the same could be applied to my boys Arsenal.  When it’s good, it’s very good.  No, actually it’s fantastic.  Remember Scientology, FIFA corruption and the care home abuse expose episodes?  But my goodness, when it’s bad it can be terrible viewing.

Last Monday was unfortunately very much a case of the latter. 

Anyone who knows me will know how much I deplore racism, my self-proclaimed “war on Liverpool  FC” was not borne out of a dislike for their red shirts or liverbird emblem.  It stemmed from the shameful events of October 2011 and the disgraceful manner in which the club destroyed their proud reputation afterwards by refusing to acknowledge and accept that Luis Suarez had committed a terrible act.

So it may surprise some that I was not one of the many to applaud the BBC or Panorama after last Monday’s broadcast.  Was it a sign that I had finally purchased a “Luis Suarez T-Shirt”?  No.  Of course not.  My own ethnic heritage forbids me from even considering such an action, despite the appalling actions of another mixed race person, namely Glen Johnson.

It’s an understatement to suggest I was upset at certain scenes during the broadcast.  Images of a group of Asian fans in Ukraine being set upon within the stadium took us back to an era when “Britannia ruled the waves”.  The waves of fans fleeing their seats that is, to seek refuge from an onslaught of English hooligans, who just a dozen years ago were a whisker away from getting England disqualified from Euro 2000.  Thankfully the inept national side did them a favour and surrendered so embarrassingly that the team were eliminated in the first round anyway!  The anti-Semitic chanting and Nazi slogans were surprising, occurring in Poland which was the scene of so much devastation from Hitler during the Second World War.  The monkey chants and general abuse towards black players was completely unacceptable.

Yet anyone watching last Monday would have been led to believe that these problems were a phenomenon which existed only in the hosts of this year’s European Championships.  This was completely ignoring the fact that these are problems which are commonplace right the way across Europe. 

This hypocrisy has probably disturbed me even more than the footage from Panorama itself.  People lining up to condemn Ukraine and Poland while questioning the decision to host the championships there.  A rebuke further compounded with a damning indictment from former England, Tottenham and Arsenal defender Sol Campbell.  Now Sol is not the brightest tool in the box.  This remember, is the player who told Arsenal in 2006 that he wanted to play abroad, and turned out the very next season at Portsmouth.  Portsmouth may be nearer to Europe than London but the last time I checked it was still a part of England.

Sol Campbell was himself the victim of sadistic taunts from Tottenham following his controversial transfer to Arsenal in 2001.  His then manager Harry Redknapp famously condemned the racist chanting while Campbell was the recipient during a game between Portsmouth and Tottenham.  Six months later Redknapp was in charge of Tottenham and showed incredible double standards by refusing to condemn his own supporters for chanting a racist song at then Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor.

Unfortunately I am aware that Arsenal fans did start singing the same racist song when Adebayor left Arsenal controversially in Summer 2009.  Only once have I personally been present when the song was sung.  I made it clear I found the song offensive.  I agreed that what Adebayor had done to our club was unacceptable and it was right we should give him a hard time, but that the song did not simply insult this one man.  It insulted every single player of African origin, indeed every single fan of African origin.  Which considering my own heritage is partially African, I regarded this song as offensive to me personally.  Thankfully the song has never been sung by these fans again, or at least not while I am present anyway.

The issues portrayed in the edition of Panorama need addressing as a matter of urgency.  UEFA has repeatedly shown an unwillingness to tackle the issue with any real desire and there is a very real prospect that the tournament which commences next week could highlight the very worst of football.  But it is foolish to think that it is a problem only in this part of the world.  This is an issue which continues to rear its head across Europe, from Stockport to Slovakia. 

Rather than address this issue for what it is, Panorama instead has decided to make Poland and Ukraine a pair of convenient scapegoats.  This solves nothing and invites ridicule from fans of the game who know better.  We will not be fooled by the shenanigans of Shamorama.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Nottingham: Stop Being Mardy & Vote YES!

It’s actually pleasant these days to be able to describe my adopted city of Nottingham in a neutral tone.  Two popular expressions I always use is the “home of Robin Hood” and “near Alton Towers”.  It’s somewhat astonishing to think that a decade ago there were very different ways of describing this cosmopolitan, young and vibrant city.  “Shottingham” was a cruel yet truly accurate description of a place which had achieved national notoriety for being a “wild west” haven of criminals and in particular gun crime.

Looking back the warning signs had been here long before I had swapped the village people of Derby for its bigger brother of Nottingham in the Summer of 2002.  Indeed when I was still living in London it had already made national headlines for becoming the first UK city to allow the use of routine patrol officers to carry firearms.  Ten years ago this city was still reeling from the untimely murder of Brendon Lawrence, but more was to follow as Nottingham seemed intent on achieving a level of national notoriety which had almost mirrored my own arrival in Tottenham fifteen years earlier.  And once again fate would ensure that where I was living would soon be known by more than the people of Nottingham, and yet again for all the wrong reasons. 

My ex-fiancée lived in the suburb of Bulwell which in August 2003 was the scene of the murder of Marvyn Bradshaw, a senseless and pointless murder, not least because it was a tragic case of mistaken identity.  But if we were all sad at Marvyn and Brendon's needless departures, then nothing could have prepared us for the events of the following autumn when Danielle Beccan was shot dead on her way home from the Goose Fair.  This was a murder I was personally touched by due to my then fiancée’s connection to Danielle’s family from their days at school.  Another case of mistaken identity, but suddenly the problems of Nottingham were no longer a feature on the local news bulletins, the eyes of the nation and indeed the world had been firmly placed on this city. 

The journey this city has taken in relation to its problems a decade ago is nothing short of remarkable and I am always telling people in London that there are genuine lessons that they can learn from this town on the Trent.  But as someone who still spends a lot of time  in the capital, I am quick to point out that there is much more that can be done, and in particular there is an example set by the people of London in relation to its democratic landscape.  Because I’m afraid there is a level of accountability in Nottingham which is light years behind London and its something which this week we can begin to address.

When 18 year old Eliza Rebeiro appeared in the audience of ITV’s London Mayoral debate earlier this week terrorising the hapless Boris Johnson, it suddenly struck me that I don’t think any of my friends would be able to name me the leader of Nottingham city council.  Or for that matter the Lord Mayor.  Why does Nottingham not have a visible point of authority?  A democratically accountable figure elected by the people who the Eliza’s of Radford, Meadows, Bulwell & St Annes can look to for answers to the city’s problems?  Why don’t we have someone who can lobby for the needs of Nottingham on a national and international stage?

14 years ago London voted “Yes” in its mayoral referendum and while I have very little time for the bumbling buffoon currently holding the keys to City Hall, I struggle to see how the system has been anything other than a success for Londoners.  Every four years London has the chance to elect a representative to champion their interests to the world, to raise the profile of a city I will always hold a great deal of affection for.

Why shouldn’t the people of Nottingham have the same opportunity?  I’m a Labour voter- always will be.  I abstained once during the General Election of 2005 but purely on the basis that I vowed never to endorse again a party led by Tony Blair following the decision to engage in an illegal war.  However I am going to be defying the guidance of the Labour party in Nottingham who have been campaigning vigorously to ensure that the city rejects the possibility of an elected mayor in the forthcoming referendum.  I also feel it’s a disgrace that my council tax has paid for advertising (or propaganda, depending on your viewpoint) to support a “No” vote.  If the Labour party in Nottingham is against the possibility of a directly elected mayor for the people of this great city, then that is their choice.  But it is completely unacceptable that public money is abused in this way. 

Nottingham is one of a tiny minority of local authorities in the UK which have increased council tax this year, something which I fully supported because it meant that jobs in the public sector in this city were protected against the savage agenda of cuts orchestrated by this sham of a government. I have no problem paying an extra £3 a month if it means that public sector jobs are saved.

But any money leftover should have been invested back into the city, and absolutely should not have been used in this appalling way.  I cannot hide my fury that the local authority have behaved like this and one of the first things I would like to see an elected mayor for Nottingham do would be to set up an investigation into this scandalous manipulation, to ensure that this can never be allowed to happen again.  Can you imagine the furore in London if Boris or his predecessor Ken had been caught using portion’s of the mayor budget to pay for their own campaigns?  Heads would be rolling!

I deserve better.  The people of Nottingham deserve better.  We need a visible electable figure of authority who can spread the wonderful news that Nottingham has evolved immensely since the days of a decade ago, who can drive investment and increase tourism to the city.  There is so much more to Nottingham than students and a vibrant nightlife popular for hen nights and stag do’s.  I am always telling people in London about how we have a main road called Maid Marian Way and that the city is proud of its historical connections to the legend of Robin Hood, but where is the focus to drive this?  Where are the tourist attractions?  This is something which needs addressing but some will say that this is why we have a council.  I disagree.  The council is here to manage the internal infrastructure, the local amenities, the schools, the public services this city relies upon.  An elected mayor of Nottingham will ensure that we have somebody who can fight our corner internationally. 

Nottingham has many reasons to be proud but we as a city need this.  On Thursday 3rd May Nottingham must vote YES to a directly electable mayor.  

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Its Good To Talk But Even Better To Do

I was fortunate enough to make the penultimate performance of Adrian Jackson's "A Few Man Fridays" last Saturday, which was followed by a question and answer session with some prominent activists from within the Chagossian movement.  I suppose I didn't have high hopes for the production.  I had already been advised by earlier attendees that the play was littered with inaccuracies and focused on a character who was fictional while marginalising the role of others who had been quite influential to this particular story.  So it was fair to say that I expected the worst.

I think this helps in many ways.  There is nothing worse than watching a film or show that has been praised to the heavens, only to find that there is an awful sense of an anti-climax when you personally get round to experiencing it yourself.  For this reason it was good that I had such low expectations, and while I acknowledge some of the criticisms from previous weeks were accurate, it enabled me to be pleasantly surprised when I did settle down for last Saturday afternoon's performance.

In many ways I had been positive before I had even taken my seat.  Scurrying around an unfamiliar corner of West London to locate the Riverside Studios, I called a friend for navigational purposes.  I was delighted to learn that the studios were incredibly well known, home of several ITV television shows for example.  This immediately suggested to me that this production would be exposed to audiences who would never have heard of the Chagos Islands or the continuing abuse of human rights which is committed by the UK day by day.  This was truly wonderful in itself, regardless of whether this was an unintended consequence or otherwise.

As for the show itself, I found it to be entertaining, moving and in the main largely accurate.  Yes of course we can be meticulous and look for the slight errors, but the message was the most important.  It would have been disastrous if that message had been manipulated, so for this reason I was delighted and recognised what a wonderful opportunity this production had provided.  The story had found a wider audience which was fantastic.

My criticisms are largely reserved for the post performance session.  And in many ways this follows on from something I have been sensing within the movement for the last few months.  There is a growing frustration, an emerging mutiny if you will, from within the base of supporters that not enough is being done.

This piece is not an attack on the UKCSA.  Let us not fool ourselves here.  The organisation have done so much for the Chagossian movement that it would be ignorant to suggest anything other than the body being a fantastic mechanism in the pursuit of justice during this struggle for justice.

Yet there is a feeling, something I detected at the AGM and sensed again on Saturday during the Q&A session, that there has been too much talking and not enough action.  That the appetite for "aggressive" activism is not endorsed by senior members of the movement.

When I speak of "aggressive" activism, I am not for a minute suggesting that we should have supporters march onto London Underground trains with large backpacks to commit acts of terrorism.  I do not nor never will endorse acts that are illegal.  Apart from being morally and legally wrong, I don't recognise how any publicity from such actions could ever amount to anything other than negative.

But when I hear that supporters are afraid to contact Vince Cable because he has "been bothered enough", I find these comments to be quite frankly appalling.  Disgraceful even.  This battle for justice should be measured on results, not a tick list of people who are "friends", allegedly.  If Vince Cable is not actively supportive, then he is not a supporter.  I refuse to see how we can be grateful for "good will".  "Good will" is not bringing the fight for justice any closer to a satisfactory resolution.

I draw on my own personal experiences when it comes to this.  Graham Allen is my MP in Nottingham North.  He will no longer acknowledge my letters or emails.  This is because I was eventually quite aggressive during my attempts to lobby him.  I make no apologies for taking such an approach.  Some may suggest that I have alienated a potential supporter, but I will counter that Allen was at best going to be a distant supporter who was not keen to embrace this particular issue with any real desire.  In my opinion, he may as well be a paid up resident of Diego Garcia for all the good he would offer this quest for justice.

In many ways the grassroots elements of this particular movement are neutralised by placing their faith in a gentle approach to achieve results.  Perhaps this was true once.  But surely the time has come for a fresh approach.

I absolutely agree that the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) has a role to play in this struggle for justice.  But the tail must not wag the dog!  There are some changes I wish to see implemented during this coming year, and this is my agenda if you like in terms of what I propose that would enable the movement to become more effective.

The first is that the various umbrella organisations should be merged under a single branding.  The UKCSA, CRG, Seychellois branches and other affiliated groups all essentially have the same mission statement.  There is only one organisation which has a completely different set of objectives and they must be alienated in order to demonstrate a unity within the movement.  I speak of course of the Allen Vincatassin's Diego Garcia Society, a rogue organisation who do so much damage to the battle for justice.  An enemy from within if you will.

Secondly I would like to see a more aggressive brand of activism endorsed from the very top of the movement.  If people like Vince Cable are shying away from using their position in government to work with us, then they should not be viewed as supporters.  As someone said to me, Alan Smith was a fantastic goalscorer for Arsenal in the 1980s and early 1990s, but we cannot suggest that he should play for Arsenal today based on what he achieved all those years ago.  Likewise Cable was a friend of the movement prior to the Coalition government being formed in May 2010, but since then has become quite shy and nowhere near as vocal or productive in his support for the cause.

Thirdly when a platform such as the past month have provided an opportunity to bring together supporters or at the very least people who have an interest in this story, we as a movement need to be more proactive in tapping into the potential that this offers.  I would have liked to have seen somebody from the various organisations actually at the door of studio two, recording the names, email addresses and other contact details of everyone in that audience.  Yes it can be somewhat over zealous, possibly even intrusive, but again we need to be more enterprising in our approach to expanding the message.  We have built up a wonderful core of supporters who have largely approached the battle in a voluntary capacity.  We now need to consider building on this by effectively becoming more forceful in our attempts to expand our base.

We are not here to collect supporters like Panini sticker's for football albums, we are here to realise an objective: to achieve justice for the Chagossian community.  Official lobbying such as the APPG has a role to play, and I do not wish to belittle their contribution for a second.  But we also need to encourage supporters to be more aggressive, to ruffle feathers, and if that means alienating people like my MP along the way then more of the same please.

Joanna Lumley did not achieve for the Gurkhas what she did by massaging politicians ego's and acknowledging their token "good will".  She aggressively took them to task and ultimately embarrassed them into action.  We can learn a lot from her approach.  We are not a forum for gentle discussion.  We are a movement with a clear objective in mind.  Its good to talk, but its even better to do.  The time has come for the talking to stop and for a more direct form of action to take centre stage.  Not illegally mind, but pushing the boundaries nonetheless.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Never Be The Same Again

Anfield.  May.  1989.  Words that unleash so many emotions amongst anybody from the red half of North London.  For many it was also the beginning of a special relationship between the two clubs.  They appreciated the flowers the players had presented to the crowd prior to the game to honour the 96 fans who had died at the Hillsborough disaster. We appreciated the fact that the Liverpool fans, devastated at the traumatic nature of losing the League title in the final moments of the 1988/89 season, showed such dignity in defeat. 

They beat us six months later, John Barnes scoring an immaculate free kick in a 2-1 victory in unquestionably the most eagerly awaited match of that season, a win which ultimately removed us from the summit and we never were to be top again that season as Liverpool cruised to their then 18th record breaking title. 

Gutted?  I was nine years old and thought Arsenal were going to win the league for the next ten years, it felt as if the sky had fallen down.  But there was a respect for a great club, an incredible achievement and on reflection I was fortunate to have witnessed a golden chapter of football history written.

At the head of this slick operation was Kenny Dalglish, a young manager who had demonstrated a leadership and strength of character which belied his relative managerial inexperience.  His support of the grief stricken families from the Hillsborough tragedy struck a chord with many outside Liverpool, although I am sure the Evertonians and United fans would perhaps beg to differ.  I really did feel sorry for him when he stepped down as Liverpool boss in 1991 and I couldn’t help feeling happy for him when he led Blackburn to the league title a few years later, even if in doing so they went against everything I believed in regarding buying success.

Of all the players to pull on the red shirt of Manchester United, Patrice Evra has always managed to irritate me more than most.  I think it goes back to the fact that originally he was meant to be an Arsenal player, but its definitely compounded by his “babies” comments about my team a few years ago.  How I enjoyed us kicking him off the park a few days later, even if they did get the point needed to secure the title that season.

More annoying was the fact he was actually an exceptional player, emphasised even more every time we played against United.  Nobody likes United players, but here was somebody who truly did annoy me.  He was good, but boy did he know it!  He also knew his United side were better than us.  And deep down we knew it too.

When I heard that Luis Suarez had been accused of racially abusing Evra, I was astonished.  I have to admit that owing to the antics of Suarez during the last World Cup, he was never one of my most favourite people anyway.  Some will say it was intelligent, and yes if it was an Arsenal player, I’d probably argue the same.  But it didn’t sit well with any of us did it?  Yet a handball on the line and his childish tormenting moments later were nothing compared to Evra and his continual attacks on my beloved Gunners.

So when this story broke I was initially biased. 

Against Evra. 

I guess I just put it down to a few throwaway comments and that it was more as a reaction to dropping two points in pursuit of Manchester City as opposed to a credible and authentic allegation that he had been racially abused.

Liverpool as a club stood by Suarez, which was understandable.  A process was under way and ultimately we would get to the bottom of what really happened.  But the more that started to leak to the press, the more we started to realise that Suarez had used the n-word when addressing Evra during an exchange.  An exchange which as the FA report eventually outlined, was neither friendly nor conciliatory.

Suarez and Evra’s exchange took place in Spanish, and both the club and player have continually protested that the word has a different context to that which is interpreted here in Britain.  I wouldn’t consider myself to be culturally ignorant, and I am aware that the term does have a different meaning.  The defence to this allegation was that the term was used during a warm hearted exchange of friendly pleasantries, a form of endearment if you will. 

This is not correct. The exchange was anything but friendly. The players were arguing.  This was no time to use language which can be regarded as racist and had such deeply offensive connotations.  If you deny this then can anybody please explain what on earth Suarez was thinking when he said I don’t speak to black’s.

Suarez was found guilty and banned but the player, club and fans refuse to acknowledge that he has done anything wrong.  Kenny Dalglish, the man I held in such high regard, the most culpable of all by questioning everything from the legitimacy of the process to the punishment eventually sanctioned. 

That verdict changed so much in football, and for me personally too.  Since that announcement I have spent the last two Manchester United v Liverpool games supporting United.  An unthinkable prospect only six months ago.  When Liverpool played Tottenham, I was supporting Tottenham in a pub in North London on the very corner of the junction of Lordship Lane and White Hart Lane.  My football world had been turned upside down.  It will never be the same again.