Friday, September 16, 2005

Football and bananas

I would like to discuss something which may seem controversial or even downright racist. I assure you, however, that my intentions are good and that I am simply trying to explore an hypothesis.
Recently (and not so recently) we have seen an interminable set of racist instances in European football stadiums. From monkey noises shouted at black players in Spain to anti Semite Lazio chants at the Olimpico. As usual, the teams, the football governing bodies, the players and everyone else involved expressed their indignation. Also as usual, the fans who actually chanted the racist insults took absolutely no notice. It seems as though the more racism is condemned the more it raises its ugly head.
Let me diverge a second. I remember, as a young schoolboy, passing interminable hours learning about Nazi horrors committed against the Jews in the Second World War. I sat through lessons and lessons where we were told how despicable these crimes had been and that, as a consequence, we were never, under any circumstances to insult someone because they were Jewish or even make a joke about it. Now, what obviously happened was that as soon as we were alone, there was a succession of Jewish jokes and insults. I do not think that my friends and I were budding young racists. I do not even think any of us fully understood anything about the historical and sociological dilemma. All we knew was that we had been told not to do it and thus, obviously, it was “cool” to do it. It is interesting to note that in the US, where anti black racism receives a lot more attention, I have been told, that in schools a very similar phenomenon occurs vis a vis African Americans. On the other hand, at school, very little importance was given to massacres like those carried out by Stalin and Mao even though they were just as gruesome if not worst. Similarly, in the playground, I do not think I ever heard a joke against Ukrainians or “Counter Revolutionary” Chinese.
What I am trying to get to here, is that maybe many football fans have a similar reaction to that of my friends when they were fifteen (the level of intelligence is probably about the same! Hehe). Maybe they chant racist songs because not only do they know it will piss off the player but also because they feel as though in some way they are being rebellious. Certainly, this is not always the case as some fringes of support around Europe are inherently racist (see Curva Nord at Lazio, or Ultra Sur at Real Madrid ). However I believe that there may be many who either accept these chants or even go as far as joining in simply to feel that frisson of excitement caused by doing something you are not supposed to.
A recent episode I saw might help to explain my point better. Oliver Khan is Bayern Munich´s goalkeeper. He is white but unfortunately looks incredibly like a gorilla. It is a bit of a tradition amongst rival fans to spend the match throwing bananas at him (to his great frustration!). Most people, including me, find it a case of harmless (though certainly harsh) banter. Neither FIFA nor UEFA have ever commented on this or condemned it in any way. On the other hand, the other day, Spanish fans started throwing bananas at a black player and caused universal shock and scandal amongst the media and football authorities.
I guess all I am trying to say is that maybe the whole “say no to racism” initiative is about as useful as the “say no to drugs” one. Let’s face it; humans are petty minded bastards which will do exactly the opposite of what they are told to do. By splashing racist fans on the news every time they throw a metaphorical banana we are simply feeding their ego and satisfying their need to be noticed. Maybe it might be better for all, if less media coverage was given to the whole phenomenon with the hope that all “part time” racists Europe wide simply get bored and decide to rebel in a different way.
Anyway, this is simply an idea, and certainly should not be taken too seriously. Thus, if you are already writing those insulting mails calling me a racist etc… don’t.


Blogger tombrad said...

Your point is very sharp; the excesive "formal" respect in matters of race do not erase the racist feelings at all, only stand the pollitically correct point of view and a seed racist feelings for people who dislike the pollitically correctness and mainstream opinnion.

It is matter of form more than substance, here in Latin America we use to speak about our "indios" in a way that scandalize europeans, however we are in fact much more friendly and less racist in our daily life with them.

8:46 pm  
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more coming soon

11:33 am  

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