Supporting Without Prejudice

Photo Source: Ericsson.com

Chelsea travel across the Capital to take on Tottenham Hotspur in the 1st leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final on Tuesday evening. It’s a game that will be put under the spotlight for the wrong reasons.

We’ve seen recent incidents that have bought Chelsea Football Club into disrepute, depressingly, not for the first time. Small sections of supporters have been accused of alleged racist abuse aimed at Raheem Sterling and anti-semitic abuse being chanted out in Hungary during the Europa League game just days later.

The club themselves reacted swiftly to both condemn and investigate those incidents – at the time of writing, we await those findings. It should go without saying that the use of bigotted language that offends those of a certain race, religion or sex has no place in society, let alone a football ground. Yet in both environs it still it goes on.

Let’s be clear though, racist language, anti-semitic songs and chanting that denigrates anybody’s sexual orientation have to be outlawed from the beautiful game or else where’s the beauty?

Those involved in the recent incidents at Stamford Bridge and out in Budapest, if guilty, must face whatever punishment the club or UEFA deems necessary. Again, if guilty, that punishment has to be hard-hitting, an example must be made that that kind of behaviour is abhorrent and intolerable. That’s when we hit a bit of a grey area in this whole sorry affair. Is this just Chelsea’s problem or are there extenuating circumstances?

The view of many is that Chelsea must get there own house in order regardless of what happens at other clubs. Of course, that’s first and foremost. To be fair to them, Chelsea have done plenty down the years to affect change and both racism and the games former scourge, hooliganism, have seen a massive decline on the terraces.

Anti-Semitism is both hurtful and hateful. However, there are those that believe the use of a certain ‘y’ word against the supporters of Tottenham Hotspur is fine because of the fact that their own supporters use it themselves. The belief being that it somehow legitimises it. It doesn’t. Tottenham supporters adopted the word for themselves to take away it’s potency as a form of abuse.

At this point, we have to bring in the role the media play. Not for the first time, they have been quick to jump on Chelsea FC and its supporters and fans. Following the abuse of Raheem Sterling, four supporters standing in the Matthew Harding Lower stand have been suspended from attending games whilst investigations continue. In a trial by social media, they were instantly found guilty.

To his absolute credit, Sterling didn’t react and the following day took to social media himself to put over his point of view. He cited that the way black players are reported on in the media is different, in a negative way, to those players that are white, exacerbating the problem on the terraces. His view was widely supported. That brings us back to the anti-semitic chanting and the way in which Tottenham supporters are able to use one word so freely, without re-dress and the way the media portrays Chelsea FC.

In the strongly worded statement put out by the club after the game against Mol Vidi, they said,

“Anti-Semitism and any other kind of race-related or religious hatred is abhorrent to this club and the overwhelming majority of our fans, it has no place at Chelsea or in any of our communities. We have stated this loud and clear on many occasions from the owner, the board, coaches and players. Any individuals that can’t summon the brainpower to comprehend this simple message and are found to have shamed the club by using anti-Semitic or racist words or actions will face the strongest possible action from the club.”

To anyone that supports Chelsea that really is the bottom line. Regardless of whether you individually think, out of ignorance or misunderstanding, that it’s ok to use the word because Tottenham do, the club – and let’s not forget the owner, Roman Abramovich is a Russian born Jew – absolutely don’t want to hear it. As supporters, as individuals and more especially as human beings it’s time to stop the abuse.

But it’s not just down to Chelsea and its supporters. All clubs have the same responsibility to adopt that same approach. Chelsea have been proactive in trying to eradicate the problem, organising trips to Auschwitz last summer, to create an awareness and adopting the ‘Say No To Anti-Semitism’ campaign last January.

The media for their part have to be consistent, objective and honest in their reporting of any incidents wherever they occur and in what context. That’s where a lot of Chelsea supporters take issue. In the recent north London derby earlier in the season, a banana skin was thrown in the direction of Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubamayang. The attention that received in the media was insignificant compared to the furore that happened post-Manchester City.

Many Blues fans have been subjected to being called ‘rent boys’ by opposing supporters. That’s wrong on so many levels. It’s a form of intolerance that is, for some reason, unworthy of being reported or outlawed. Following yesterday’s FA Cup game a complaint was made regarding Nottingham Forest fans using the ‘rent boy’ chant. That’s being investigated. Without listing endless examples, racism and discrimination are not just restricted to Chelsea. The media have to treat all forms of abuse in the same way if they are to have any credibility.

The vast majority attending Stamford Bridge and indeed any football ground will only be interested in supporting their team. Football is a release from the everyday pressures of life. Passion on the terraces is inevitable, essential and acceptable. It just has to be directed in the correct way. At the end of the day, we are all about Chelsea. We know everyone else hates us. We’ve been successful and they don’t like it but let’s not worry about them. Let’s simply look at those eleven players on the field that wear our badge with pride and support them in the same way.

Football is about enjoyment and it should be inclusive for all. Of course, passion knows no bounds but nobody should be made to feel uncomfortable attending games.

Follow Kevin on Twitter @techlec2000 

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