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.