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Bacon’s Bites: I don’t see colour in football, just people.... Danger in sport, yes, but parents must retain the choice

13 December, 2018 - 19:30
England's Raheem Sterling Photo: PA

England's Raheem Sterling Photo: PA

PA Wire/PA Images

In this week’s Bacon’s Bites, Mike Bacon takes a look at the on-going racism debate in football. And why head injuries in sport are a concern, but should some sports be banned?

Nothing wrong with football fans' passion. But don't let it spill over to abuse that goes way above an accepted level Photo: PANothing wrong with football fans' passion. But don't let it spill over to abuse that goes way above an accepted level Photo: PA

‘Dad, did you see the banana that was thrown onto the pitch at Aubameyang?’

My youngest son is 17 and there was surprise and shock in his voice as he caught up with his latest social media posts. ‘Why would anyone do that?’ he added.

I had no answer, apart from calling the perpetrator, ‘a bloody idiot’.

It made me realise that while I and almost all of you reading this like to think football and society has come along way since the days when racism, especially in football, was rife... It seems, it hasn’t.

That was exemplified by the snarling, grotesque Chelsea fans hurling abuse at Raheem Sterling last weekend, one pathetically later claiming he called Sterling a, Manc c***, not a black c***... Of course that makes it so much better.

The same fans who were no doubt hailing Sterling’s efforts for England in the summer. It’s all so desperately sad.

Former Liverpool player John Barnes. Photo: PAFormer Liverpool player John Barnes. Photo: PA

Why are some people who go to football like this?

I love football. I love the passion the game gives to me and millions worldwide.

But abusing opponents with such vigour has no place.

Football is the peoples’ game. It is the planet’s game. It’s the best game.

It has passion, it has tears, joy. Your team is part of your life, professional or non-league.

It’s a game that brings all races, creeds and colours together.

Young Boys fans during the UEFA Champions League at Old Trafford recently Photo: PAYoung Boys fans during the UEFA Champions League at Old Trafford recently Photo: PA

There are no black footballers, no white footballers. There are just footballers.

Neither are there black fans or white fans – just football fans.

Of course we love our teams, it doesn’t matter who you support.

But there is no place for the sort of disgusting and grotesque behaviour we have witnessed at the Emirates and Stamford Bridge recently.

OK, the game doesn’t help itself.

Today, players and fans have never been so distanced from each other as they are, and that’s totally the professional clubs who are at fault.

Fabricio Werdum (right) and Alexander Volkov in action during a fight at The O2 Arena, London. MMA has it's dangers. Photo: PAFabricio Werdum (right) and Alexander Volkov in action during a fight at The O2 Arena, London. MMA has it's dangers. Photo: PA

A lack of understanding is now all too common, especially among fans towards players, as clubs horde their ‘assets’ – their players – and let few people into understanding who they really are.

It’s along way from any excuse for some of the Neanderthal behaviour we witness at football grounds. But it doesn’t help.

Of course racism is not football’s problem, it’s a problem in society. Full Stop.

John Barnes, the former Liverpool and England great summed it up.

“When people talk about, ‘Oh isn’t that terrible what happened to Raheem Sterling?’, You speak to black people in the inner cities and they say ‘this is what we go through every single day’,” he said.

Personally, I’m not happy about football being the catalyst for a debate about racism, but if it makes a difference, any difference, not just to football, but to society in general, then let’s have that debate, not shy away from it.

England's Emily Scarratt receives treatment for an injury in the Women's Rugby Sevens bronze medal match against Canada duringf the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia. Photo: PAEngland's Emily Scarratt receives treatment for an injury in the Women's Rugby Sevens bronze medal match against Canada duringf the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia. Photo: PA

However, the bottom line is simple.

People need to take responsibility for their own actions. Not hide behind their warped excuses.

LISTEN: To the Non League Podcast... Plenty to choose from here

The popularity of boxing and MMA is at an all-time high.

Fighters such as Anthony Joshua and Conor McGregor are household names.

However, brain injury charity Headway have said that parents need to understand they are risking their children suffering brain injuries when they introduce them to combat sports, like rugby, boxing and MMA.

Headway is calling for a total ban, for all ages, on boxing and MMA – or any sport where the objective is to strike the head of your opponent.

As a parent who has had one of my sons compete at competition level in karate, as well as playing rugby for three years, I do understand the concern.

I have witnessed a 14-year-old boy suffer a serious blow to the head in a rugby game that resulted in a seizure. It wasn’t pleasant.

There are certainly risks with combat sport, parents must not be blinkered, and let those who love sports like boxing, MMA and rugby tell you otherwise.

“Any blow to the head can technically have an impact on a child’s development and their future. Why would you take that risk?” Headway spokesman Luke Griggs said.

As a parent whose children have played all manner of sports, I have had to weigh up those risks and I respect the professionals’ opinions.

But you can’t ban all sports where there is risk of injury, be it head, spine, neck or leg.

Youngsters ride moto-cross, race cycle speedway, play at full-pace, basketball and football. Hockey and cricket balls are as hard as rock!

There is danger everywhere if you look for it.

I applaud Headway and what they are saying – they know far more about head injuries than I do and they should be respected.

My views here are not to say ignore their comments. Far from it.

But I’m sure no parent would ever allow their child to do something they felt would most certainly hurt, harm, or injure them.

There has to remain that choice.

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