Friday 14 December 2007

Racism hidden in the english game?

I have long had the feeling, backed up by many anecdotes, that there is still a lot of xenophobia, bordering on racism, still present in English football. The recent response to Fabio Capello's appointment as England manager has simply confirmed this for me.

Firstly the majority of people out there seem to agree that Capello is a great choice, there is simply no English manager with anything like the experience or track record. The fact that the last English manager Steve Mclaren did such a poor job should demonstrate that English is not necessarily best. Sven had his critics and undoubtedly had his flaws, however he had the best record of any England manager of recent years; reaching the quarter finals of three major championships consecutively. His English predecessors were arguably vastly inferior, here I'm talking of the likes of Keegan and Hoddle.

Despite the complete lack of a decent English candidate, there is still a significant amount of banter from certain media pundits and members of the public that claims the England manager must be English. The vast majority of these people have no argument containing logic, they just don't like 'foreigners' and consequently don't want one managing their national side. When it is pointed out to them that the last English manager was useless, they ignore it and reiterate their dislike of all things foreign. Maybe this is just xenophobia, I would put it nearer overt racism though. Steve Coppell has commented:
"I am a proud English manager and would have loved an Englishman to have been in charge. You look at the list of contenders and what he (Capello) has done ticks all the boxes but I just wish he was English."
Steve Coppell's comments are not racist by any means, but why this obsession with an English manager? Now to comments from Tony Adams:
"I wouldn't have had Capello as England manager because I just wanted an Englishman to take this country forward "
These comments are moving in the direction of being rather xenophobic. Just who would Tony Adams have selected as the new England manager, Harry Redknapp!?! With all respect to 'Arry, he hardly has the experience or proven track record at the highest level that Capello has. I have always admired Martin Keown for his intelligent opinion and he avoids the xenophobic line that others seem to cling to:
"I think the players will know their roles. I don't think it will be sexy football but we want to win and qualify for competitions and I think this is the best man for the job."

There are xenophopic undercurrents in the preferential treatment of English players by referees, but I don't have time to get into that today. However when Arsenal get physical it's 'dirty' but when Arsenal get kicked to pieces it is 'good old English football'. Part of the reason for English football's failings on the international stage is the blatant xenophobic undercurrent in our game; if we valued good technical football a bit more, and enforced the rules of the game a bit more consistently, then we may make a bit more progress. I thought this letter from football365 summed it up well:
"You've replaced a man who's accomplished little with a man who is a proven winner and also carries no baggage from the previous underachieving regime.

How on Earth can there be any complaints?

Ah, but you're English, of course there'll be complaints. "

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