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A home truth from Gareth Southgate

OPINION: After ugly scenes in Bulgaria, the England boss has reminded us about getting our own house in order

17 October, 2019 — By Richard Osley

England boss Gareth Southgate

WE found out at last summer’s World Cup that Gareth Southgate may not be the football strategist that England need.

At least, however, he’s a nice bloke – the guy your daughter will end up bringing home when all the nightclub romeos are done breaking her heart.

And to his credit, he is often considered in his responses to difficult questions.

Take his response this week, as England found Bulgaria, without the need for a jury trial, to be guilty of being the most racist country of all time.

It goes without saying that the monkey chants and sight of Nazi salutes sickens us all, and, as always, well done to Raheem Sterling and others for keeping their cool and playing so well.

These scenes must be condemned.

In doing so, however, we should remember those idiots do not represent every Bulgarian, nor every eastern European. By the same token, let’s hope people from other countries do not judge me and you by the worst England fans.

Because, you know, we’re not perfect.

There is still a specific campaign to “kick it out” of English football, racism.

We’ve seen Sterling abused at Premier League grounds, we’ve seen a black guy stopped from getting on a Metro train in Paris by English football fans and anti-semitism towards Spurs supporters.

Inside the game, right here in this country, BAME candidates clearly face invisible employment hurdles to becoming football managers or referees, even from becoming print journalists and commentators.

Then there’s the dubious choice of language which slips into public life.

Take Boris Johnson, our prime minister. He joined the scathing remarks about Bulgaria, tweeting that there needed to be “strong, swift action from UEFA”.

It’s always a stronger message, of course, when it comes from somebody who once described African people as “piccaninnies with watermelon smiles” and Muslim women as looking like letterboxes.

So over to Southgate, who was being invited to concentrate on Bulgaria’s baddest racism after the match.

“Sadly, my players, because of their experiences in our own country, are hardened to racism,” he reflected honestly about getting our own house in order.


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