Danny Hall column: The Chelsea racism episode is not just a football problem - it’s up to us to sort

Chelsea fans hold a banner against rascism
Chelsea fans hold a banner against rascism
  • Video of Chelsea fans on the Paris Metro was shameful, despicable and shocking
  • But it shows the fight against racism has not yet been won
  • To do so, it will take all of us to stand up and say: this is wrong
  • Football reflects society, rather than the other way round - this isn’t just a problem for FIFA or UEFA

The chances are that, by now, you’ve seen the video and made up your own mind.

In case you haven’t, the clip in question here is from the Paris Metro last week and shows a black 33-year-old Frenchman, Souleymane, being shoved off a train in his home city.

For being black.

That presumption is helped by the chant of choice from the visiting Chelsea fans, informing all that they were racist and, actually, they liked it... as if their disgraceful, shameful and disturbing behaviour was simply a positive life choice.

Some of us like football; some don’t. Some like to travel. And some, like this collection of pondlife, like to combine the two; by visiting a beautiful city like Paris and denying a fellow human being the chance to stand side-by-side with them on a train because of his colour.

The video was predictably greeted with an outpouring of outrage typical of the 21st century; it made a lot of noise online as folk rushed to condemn it. A group of West Ham fans made a mocking video showing a black fan being welcomed aboard a train; a day or so later, their club was in the headlines after launching an anti-Semetic chant at Tottenham Hotspur fans.

Show Racism the Red Card event at Morpeth's County Hall with ex-professional footballer Richard Offiong and pupil William Knox from Cramlington's Beaconhill Primary School.

Show Racism the Red Card event at Morpeth's County Hall with ex-professional footballer Richard Offiong and pupil William Knox from Cramlington's Beaconhill Primary School.

So now the ire has faded, some of the fans involved have been exposed and Souleymane has been left probably dreading to take the Metro in his own city, what happens now?

This is where this column believes the emergence of this video is a good thing. Not, for the record, its contents; which were barbaric, cruel. But the fact this clip has emerged, as tangible proof that football does have a problem with racism.

It isn’t all football’s fault, of course. The game, and the all-encompassing global machine that it has become, has the power to influence and change society but, on the whole, it reflects it.

And NatCen’s British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey, from last year, reckons that as many as one in three Britons have ‘some level of racial prejudice’. In layman’s terms, they’re racist.

I think racism is not exclusively English or French. And it’s not just sport that is racist. Racism is a societal problem. And it has to stop.

Jim Michel-Gabriel

And although the percentage in Yorkshire and Humberside is down six per cent from the turn of the millennium, over three in every ten people admit they are racist. Imagine how many more are in denial?

Not all these three people take the form of the Chelsea thugs on the train, either; 26 per cent of ‘professional/employers/managers’ who took part in the survey admitted to holding racist prejudices. At least you know where you stand with the neanderthal on the train, singing songs of pride in his behaviour.

And as one fellow scribe pointed out last week; these people are not football’s responsibility. For one or two days they may be, but they aren’t locked away until the next game; they’re free to walk amongst us, in society, still harbouring the same backward views we saw on the Metro.

As society becomes more racist, can we be shocked if football follows suit?

Sure, disgusting scenes of the past with players routinely pelted with bananas and monkey chants are gone. But have the sentiments gone, too? Or have these racist factions instead been forced - somewhat poetically, after the Paris Metro incident - underground?

Souleymane had never met the people who abused him at Richelieu-Drouot station before; he admits to liking football but doesn’t follow a team, and has vowed never to go to a stadium again. So, unless they are brought to justice in the French courts, he is unlikely to come face-to-face with them again.

But make no mistake; he recognised them alright. For Souleymane lives with racism; he has seen its ugly face before. These scenes, captured in a 57-second clip by bystander Paul Nolan, capture the first time this ugly face has shoved him off a Metro train.

The sad irony is that these same racists later cheered on their beloved Chelsea, without a moment of thought for their hypocrisy. The same Chelsea, of course, who are owned by a mega-rich Jewish Russian and managed by a Portuguese - with a Nigerian technical director and a roster of talent from all over the world.

That now-infamous minority of fans cheered on a Chelsea squad, inside PSG’s Parc des Princes stadium, which included six black players - including Didier Drogba, the hero of Chelsea’s Champions League success in 2012.

Would they have cheered if Loic Remy, Juan Cuadrado or Kurt Zouma had scored the winner in a game that finished 1-1? Of course they would have.

All three are black. That’s football’s ‘them-and-us’ tribalism for you, folks.

Their contempt was instead reserved for Souleymane, a sales manager just trying to get home for dinner and to see his three children.

Instead, this ordinary, decent bloke has been catapulted into infamy; as the public face of English football’s ugly side.

So think of Souleymane and his experience the next time you see or hear racist behaviour.

After all, it’s 2015 and that sort of behaviour should be a thing of the past.

Think of how he bravely stood his ground and tried to push back.

Maybe we could all learn a lesson or two from him.

Racism isn’t football’s problem; it’s ours.

Incidents like this must be a real kick in the teeth for those individuals who work tirelessly to try and eradicate racism from our game. But scenes like these will not be stamped out with a few Kick it Out t-shirts and TV adverts. Instead, it will take strong leadership, and a firm hand.

It will take the relevant authorities admitting that there is a problem. And it will take people associated with these bigots, not just those affected, to stand up and say the blindingly obvious.

‘This is wrong’.