Writer and Chelsea fan Ivor Baddiel has praised the club’s work on the forthcoming Game for Equality…
The aim of all charities and campaigning organisations is to no longer exist. If a cure for cancer is found then there’d be no need for cancer charities to exist; if there’s no homelessness then there’s no need for homeless charities to exist, and if there’s no prejudice or discrimination then organisations campaigning on those issues would no longer be needed.
It’s a lovely, utopian image, but sadly I feel fairly certain that it’s a long, long way off. To get to that point though, to a world where these issues no longer merit attention, the exact opposite is needed i.e. to draw a lot of attention to them. That’s exactly what the first Game For Equality this Saturday is all about.
To my mind it’s highlighting two main issues. Firstly, equality in the wider sense of the word. The right for anyone and everyone to attend, participate in and enjoy a football match, free from any concerns that they might be discriminated against in any way. To this end a number of campaigning organisations, Kick It Out, Football v Homophobia and the like, will come together to highlight their issues and support the notion of equality.
But there’s also the matter of equality between organisations who all, essentially, want the same thing. It’s always bugged me slightly that, for example, there were two main charities focusing on older people, Age Concern and Help The Aged (I believe they’ve now joined forces, which kind of makes my point in some respects). Or two for homeless people, Crisis and Shelter. In a crowded marketplace, in some respects they are in competition with each other and quite possibly losing out on funds and expertise. It makes sense therefore for them all to come together under one umbrella where they can present a united front and show the world that they have a common aim.
The Game For Equality is that umbrella and as a Chelsea fan, I’m mighty proud it’s taking place at the Bridge when Everton come visiting at the weekend.
It’s a real mark of just how much things have changed both in football and at Chelsea.
Despite what some away fans might chant, I was there when we were shocking (okay, they use another word beginning with S H), and in this instance, what was shocking was the horrendous racism that went on both in and around the ground.
The National Front used to openly sell their newspaper outside the ground, black players, both Chelsea players and the away team’s players, were subjected to unbelievable abuse and skinheads gave Nazi salutes while standing in The Shed.
Okay, so that’s not going to come as a great surprise to a lot of you, we know what went on, it’s been well documented. But, to my mind, we can’t say it enough. There are generations coming up, going to football today and enjoying the far less discriminatory atmosphere that exists in the ground, who probably don’t know what went on. The chances are they can barely believe it used to be like that – a sign, possibly, of how far things have come – but there’s a great danger in not telling them about it and just assuming that things will continue to get better.
I don’t believe the majority of people who indulged in racist, discriminatory behaviour all those years ago were actually hard-nosed, dyed-in-the-wool racists; they were just joining in with the crowd, doing what everyone else was doing because they thought it was a laugh, they thought it was what you did at football and it was acceptable.
It was only when organisations such as the ones supporting the Game for Equality this weekend came along and highlighted what was going on that things started to change. People, fans, understood what they were doing and why it was so offensive and, for the most part, they stopped.
Of course there is still work to do, The campaign I’m involved with, about The Y Word, is still on-going, but it has certainly raised the issue, got people talking about it and most importantly got them thinking about it. That is the way to ensure that positive change happens.
For some reason us humans find it very hard to learn from our past mistakes and all too often, repeat them. That’s why initiatives such as The Game for Equality are vital and need to continue until they no longer have to exist, which, as I’ve said, is still a long way off.