Rip the Thorns Off

WRITTEN BY CHARLES ODUGBESAN

I’m fascinated by the concept of a rose. The flower is beautiful and delicate – it’s bright colouring denotes passion, purity, love and even lust… certainly it is suggestive of a strong emotion in any case! But as beautiful as a rose may be, let us not forget that it comes with thorns. And what do the thorns represent? Impurities. They are a harsh reminder that nothing is perfect and everything comes with flaws. Flaws that one shouldn’t be forced to embrace. Like when you buy a packet of crisps and only half the bag is full. Or you buy a brand new iPhone and it’s battery life is diabolical. It certainly wouldn’t be a bright idea picking up a rose from the shrubs in the wild! They’re not quite the same as the £20 Valentine’s roses that are on sale in Tesco. The concept of a rose is complex; it’s more than just a flower. It’s contradicting aspects are symbolic.

I’d use the aspects of a rose to describe football in this day and age. The sport in and of itself isn’t complicated: two teams of eleven, one ball, two goals and all that! But similar to the way a rose can project a sense of passion and love, football die hards will testify that the sport creates those elements of passion, as well as freedom and temporary escape. The same can be said of any sport as a matter of fact. However, the beautiful game isn’t as simple as it appears. Beneath the surface, lie the thorns – the vices of the game: money, politics and racism among others all exist when looking beyond just the sport.

‘I love the game. I’m never going to stop loving it. It’s just disappointing to know it’s still in the game.’

Racial profiling and discrimination, often issues that are ever present in day to day life, are not a rarity in football. Be it in the very top divisions of the game across Europe, or at Sunday League level in your local district, there are countless cases where an individual can recall being subject to racial slurs… including yours truly.

One of the most eye opening instances to be documented in recent times came from a teenager. Rhian Brewster, born April 1st 2000, is a representative of both Liverpool Football Club and the national team at U17’s level. In an interview with The Guardian he spoke of his own instances of racial abuse and the lack of subsequent action that followed.

‘I don’t think UEFA take this thing seriously. They really don’t care. That is how it feels’

Rhian spoke of 5 instances of racial abuse he had suffered in just 7 months and even recalled an incident when he was just 12 years of age. Not only is it awful that such a young professional should endure this type of negativity at such a young age, but for his complaints and reports to be taken to The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) and be met with next to no justice or definitive action is shocking. ‘Kick it out’ adverts, bracelets and banners are simply not enough to eradicate the poisonous concept of racism from a pure game like football. The appropriate governing bodies have more responsibility than to just pay lip service to cases like Rhian’s that are emulated all over Europe and the world.

‘Fuck the system, it’s not going to do anything’

Racism in certain countries makes me fear for the lives and well-being of fans and players alike. Both physically and mentally. As we start 2018 we are almost on the eve of the 21st FIFA World Cup – in Russia. Politics, racism and greed are simply not addressed enough in countries like this with regards to the game and any issues raised are almost swept under the rug so to speak. I can definitely see a very serious racial incident occurring at the World Cup. But just as young Brewster concedes, if something horrible were to happen, what will come of it?

Earlier I stated that football can provide a temporary escape from one’s personal problems or just the negativity of life itself. It’s almost heart-breaking to concede that one of life’s great flaws is still so prominent in the beautiful game today. Football truly is a rose with thorns. If only we could rip the thorns off.

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