Football is generally referred to as “The Beautiful Game”, however, there are long-running problems within the game. Most of these relate to the fans and their reactions to issues.
The Beautiful Game’s Ugly Issues
The first big issue we look at is that of sexism. There seems to be a lot of male fans who believe that women can’t be involved in the men’s game.
As pundits, commentators, players or even officials women have experienced all manner of abuse, prejudice and discrimination. Neanderthal attitudes still flood through the beautiful game. A depressing thought, and something that needs to be sorted.
However, it’s not just the fans that are guilty of these attitudes. People who should know better have also been found wanting. Ada Hegerberg recently won the inaugural Ballon d’Or for ladies football.
When she collected her award, Martin Solveig a French DJ, asked Hegerberg if she could Twerk. The male winner would never have been asked anything similar. Alex Scott, BBC pundit and former England & Arsenal player, has received sexist abuse on Twitter.
Scott has also received threats of rape and violence directed her way. There are some who believe that women should not comment on the male game. Eniola Aluko, like Scott, has faced criticism mostly because she is female.
Female match officials are not that common in the Premier League. Sian Massey-Ellis is currently the only one. Massey-Ellis has come under fire by Prehistoric views, such as suggestions that she shouldn’t be officiating and should be in the kitchen instead.
Another big issue in football is racism. Despite efforts to end this, unfortunately, there are a minority that give the game a bad name. Manchester City player Raheem Sterling allegedly suffered racist abuse by Chelsea fans. The Blues worked with the police to identify the fans and banned them for life.
There is a no-tolerance attitude from the clubs toward racism, and Kick It Out was formed in 1993 to try and tackle the issue in the game. However, there are still racist attitudes amongst fans. Fortunately, with the no-tolerance attitude, the clubs take swift action when cases are brought to their attention.
Huddersfield Town player Philip Billing posted on social media a message that he received on his Instagram account. The disgusting message demanded the player get out of the club and included a racist remark aimed at Billing.
The club reported this incident to the police and a 16-year-old has been arrested in connection with it. The Terriers identified the sender of the message and will take action against the so-called fan directly.
Antisemitism is still an issue in the world today. Football is no exception to this. Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham have all suffered from chants from their own fans in recent times. Chelsea launched an initiative Say No To Antisemitism in 2018 to try and raise awareness of the issues surrounding this kind of abuse.
Unfortunately, some of their own fans as recently as December 2018 were involved with chanting at games. The culprits were banned by the club in their zero-tolerance stance.
This is very much a taboo subject still in football. Very few footballers will come out and admit to being openly gay. This is because of the outdated attitude towards homosexuality. Justin Fashanu was the first footballer to be openly gay.
It is not restricted to just those who are openly gay. Graeme Le Saux experienced homophobic taunts, despite being married and having children and being straight. Sol Campbell received homophobic chants as recently as 2014.
Ex-Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari is on record as saying he would throw out of the team any player who he found to be gay. So the problem runs deep within the roots of the game: the attitudes are not held just by the fans.
Can the beautiful game ever rid itself of these outdated attitudes? I’m hopeful, but it may take longer for some than others.
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