Is Football Racist? My Dad's story

Monday 16 July 2012, 11:00

Clarke Carlisle Clarke Carlisle Presenter

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It's not an exaggeration! Here I am, 32 years of age, I've been a professional footballer for half of my life yet I've never talked to my Dad about his days within the game.

The truth is I'm kind of glad that I hadn't.

My dad left school with the dream of being a footballer but only managed to play at semi-professional level at his peak, despite his widely acknowledged ability.

It was his experiences as a black player in the Preston and District leagues that alarmed me.

When BBC Three approached me to present Is Football Racist? I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to gain a real understanding about this very emotive issue, one that I regularly speak about in my capacity at the Professional Footballers' Association.

Footballer Clarke Carlisle

Clarke Carlisle

I expected to hear some differing experiences to my own but not really anything to challenge my personal beliefs around the issue.

In making the documentary I asked my Dad for the first time about his experience of football culture in the 70s and 80s.

The emotions it brought up on camera took us both by surprise.

"Kicked, punched, head-butted, stamped on", and that was ON the pitch. My Dad could barely bring himself to recall the details of events OFF the pitch.

He kept going back every week, to the terraces and to the pitch, because he loves football, but I'm not sure I would've been the same.

Maybe it's because of the different eras. Dad was used to the abuse and prejudice in daily life so it wasn't unusual for him. Why should it be any different at the football?

Despite our shared passion for football Dad decided never to take me to a game when I was a kid. He didn't want me to be in that atmosphere in the stands.

I've grown up in a different time and if I encountered now any of what he experienced then I'd be horrified.

I often wonder if I'd love the game as much if I had known Dad's story. The truth is that I probably would.

Once the conversation got going we went on to talk about how much he wanted to be a footballer, what it would've meant. Of how Viv Anderson playing for England was a real "wow" moment, not just for him but for the black man in England.

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Clarke talks to his dad about his experiences of racism on the pitch

So when we reflected on what it meant to us for me to pull on an England shirt we both broke down! The realisation of a dream for father and son.

Dad consciously sheltered me from what he knew was out there, he'd experienced it first-hand. I appreciate him doing that because it gave me the freedom to pursue goals without pre-conceived fears of 'potential' barriers.

I will do the same for my kids too. I don't want to burden them with what 'might' be a problem in life. I want to empower them. I want them to believe that they can achieve anything if they work hard enough, not program them to see barriers.

Making this film has helped me to see football's problem: it's made up of humans.

Football is no different to society. It's comprised of young men from local estates up and down the country.

Football is not the elixir to cure society's ills, if things need to change then we all have to change them.

Football can, however, lead the way by setting an example that is watched by hundreds of millions of people across all ages, faiths and cultures on a weekly basis.

Its influence is unparalleled.

Clarke Carlisle is the presenter of Is Football Racist?

Is Football Racist? is on Monday, 16 July at 9pm on BBC Three. For further programme times, please see the episode guide.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

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Comments

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 61.

    @41

    What a load of nonsense, self-racism that is just a ridiculous word that some psychologist has made up. You really believe in such a thing?

    If a black person says something about another black person's colour, isn't this just the same as a white person calling someone a ginger for having ginger hair? So your calling that self-racism?

  • rate this
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    Comment number 62.

    #56
    Maybe, I don't have the slightest clue how trials work though. I would think the piece of footage featuring John Terry showed quite clearly what the offensive words were though.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 63.

    #57 smackeyes

    Presumably, the dangers would be explained.

    And anyway, I had a striker then a racer. Never a grifter. :-)

    Seriously though, this whole 'role model' defence or idea is an example of people (parents etc) trying to wriggle out of their own responsibilities.

  • Comment number 64.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 65.

    I'm sure Paul Scholes has been called a ginger whatever and Peter Crouch has been called a lanky whatever.
    I've been called a four-eyed whatever and a bald whatever.
    What a pity I'm not black then at least I could take my name callers to court.
    btw why isn't it racist to call Barack Obama the first black President when he's just as much white as he is black?

  • rate this
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    Comment number 66.

    Weallfollow, same excuse as Suarez then really isn't it. Ferdinand shouldn't agree with things he doesn't fully understand.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 67.

    I agree with some of what you are saying, but however well I raise my son, there will always be other factors that come into play, and other people too. It's very difficult to shield children from all influences however hard you try.

    If it was that easy, all children would grow up as lawyers no?

    P.s wish my kid had a Grifter, might build his arm muscles a bit, they weighed a tonne.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 68.

    One interesting point that is never mentioned . If you look at the ethnic make up of premier league teams Football could never be classed racist.
    The police that led the prosecution, the British legal system, the press that write about it are dominated by white people, as is higher education. Football is one of the only professions that a working class kid of any ethnic origin can be guaranteed to make a great wage as long as they have the talent. This is not condoning what goes on but the day one can walk into a Britsh court system and see Black judges and a proportional mix of Lawyers and barristers will be the day that the media and the legal system can condemn soccer from a position of not being hypocrites

  • rate this
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    Comment number 69.

    "If a black person says something about another black person's colour, isn't this just the same as a white person calling someone a ginger for having ginger hair? So your calling that self-racism?"

    In the immortal words of Tim Minchin, only another ginger can call a ginger ginger.

    I've been randomly abused on the street by men - both black and white - for having red hair. It's not racism but it is hideously unpleasent, especially for a women on her own. And the media allows those sorts of jokes to be broadcast on prime time conedy shows.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 70.

    Of course there is a difference between black and white people, it is plain to see it is just the colour of skin. But there the difference ends.

    Unfortunately certain sections of our society have to keep reminding us, that the difference goes way beyond the colour of a persons skin.

    Ferdinands comment was related to skin colour and the persons actions and is nothing new, the term has been around in different forms for over a century.

    Ferdinand implied that there is far more of a difference than mere colour of skin, it basically refers to Cole and points out 'we know which side you have chosen' or 'you are a white man's, black man'

    There are no sides if we truly want racial harmony and Ferdinands comment is one of many from sections of our society who want to perpetuate the myth, that there is a difference between people.

    He should hang his head in shame,it is not the way forward, coming from an area with a massive influx of immigrants in the fifties and sixties. All people black and white and Asian wanted, was to get on with their lives, to work towards a better standard of living and enjoy life, as best they can. Yes there were problems but many were overcome by people setting an example.

    We will always have those who wish to perpetuate the myth of differences in races as being harmful to a society.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 71.

    I Don't like John Terry and I don't like Chelsea either b-u-t this is stuff that goes on during football matches every week, everyone knows that. The stupidity was to bring it to a criminal court which has just stirred the whole thing up and caused some short term pettiness. Football is no different to the rest of daily life in the country, you would be completely naieve to think that it doesn't go on. Yet in my lifetime it has become I feel less acceptable and less hateful -- in many other European countries it is worse than Britain in the 1960's.

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    Comment number 72.

    This should be an interesting programme as long as it doesn't descend into sensationalism.

    I think any form of racism should be punished to the highest possible punishment available. This is a given.

    However, I also think that verbal abuse that skulks under the banner of 'banter', i.e. people insulting John Terry on the pitch about his personal life, Evra insulting Surez's family is equally odious and should be equally punished.

    Is calling someone a black so-and-so different to calling someone a ginger so-and-so or a fat so-and-so??

  • rate this
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    Comment number 73.

    Black is an adjective, it is not an offensive word in itself. It is used in Black Professional Footballers Dinner/ Awards/Pageants/ Miss World etc. The offensive word is the noun. So if someone does/says something that makes the blood boil and a reply is deemed necessary, one looks at the person who has annoyed you and you accompany the offending noun with an appropriate adjective eg Fat, 4 eyed, ugly, bald, skinhead, skinny, ignorant/thick/stupid (for comments) and yes BLACK or WHITE if they are of different colour . Simple isn't it ....

  • rate this
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    Comment number 74.

    67. At 14:06 16th Jul 2012, smackeyes

    Only if they were good at being a lawyer.

    Anyway, I'm only a few years into this whole parent thing but seriously, if my child does something horrible because they follow a 'celebrity' I would put them on the straight and narrow myself, I wouldn't expect the 'celebrity' to be responsible for it.

    Yes, a grifter was hardly a bmx on the bulk front. Did have three gears though - if they ever worked properly!

  • Comment number 75.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 76.

    61.At 13:59 16th Jul 2012, jdowling18 wrote:
    ___________________________________

    I heard the term "choc-ice" back in the 80´s. My friend ( who was black ) was called it by other black guys because he hung around with me and other white guys , we were friends we all worked together and used to out to the pub after work.
    My friend used to get very angry and upset when he got called it. Not sure if it is really a rascist term or just an insult ?
    But it is not the same as a white guy calling another white guy "ginger" that is for sure.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 77.

    #75 jat11

    I've got to say, I think your comments and arguments are all over the show!

    Maybe Asian's aspire to cricket rather than football?

    You seemed to have used the word FACT when the word OPINION would have been more accurate.

    The FA couldn't do anything about Terry before the judicial system did. And, on that subject, I doubt they can look at Terry alone now given that the findings in law.

    As far as wages go, you do not show an understanding of the free market.

    Just a few points. Could be more if I went into one.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 78.

    #70
    As post 42 has pointed out, almost every aspect of society seem to go out of their way to seperate themselves.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 79.

    #75

    Maybe we should have a fast-track system for an Asian England captain, or maybe for each premier league team? Why not, we seem to have in all other major professions.

    If you are suggesting that Asian kids are turned away from joining football teams or sports teams because of their skin colour you are completely deluded, if that happened once it would be front page news, the most important case for the local police and general hysteria akin to the John Terry farce.

    Get the chip off your shoulder and see past the big agenda...

  • rate this
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    Comment number 80.

    You can't really equate an insult based on race to an insult based on hair colour or whatever, and there are good reasons why you can be convicted for one and not the other. If you don't realise why this is the case you should look up the history of it, it's pretty obvious though.

 

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