Monday, June 12, 2006

Football Racism?

This is not about Samuel Eto’o being insulted by hooligan fans or about black players having bananas hurled at them while they are on the pitch. It is about me and what role race plays in my making a decision to support a team. I will almost always support a team that is fully or majority black against a team that is not. Does that make me racist? I guess it does in a way.

International tournaments like the world cup are the ones that always bring this out in me the most. I have done little else over the past few days but watch the world cup and except for England (which I have a particular soft spot for) all the other teams I have supported vigorously have been dominated by black players.

My Ivorian chaps went and put up a great fight but fell to the Argentines after playing the better game and being victims of a dodgy offside goal. Earlier on the Andean brothers from Equador had humbled Poland. Then came the soccer warriors from Trinidad and Tobago who held Sweden to a goalless draw when everybody thought that they were going to get thrashed thoroughly. The Angolans also lost gallantly against their former colonial masters Portugal, who were expected to use Angola as a practise session for their meeting with Mexico. I can barely wait for the Ghanaians to take on the Azzuris tonight.

Like I was saying, all the teams I have supported above are made up mostly of black players and that is essentially why I supported them. The fact that they were playing teams I can find no reason for supporting may also be part of the reason. That I automatically decide I am going to support Ecuador, yet I have never seen them play outside the world cup beats me.

Every time I am pondering these issues I come across information that just makes me understand why. Take the Ecuadorians for example. Black Ecuadorians have for years lived on the fringes of society and are by far the poorest of the various groups in that country. They have been kept in that state by a kind of institutionalised racism that favours the white and Mestizo (mixed white and Indian) population. However, in 2002 when the predominantly black national team qualified for the world cup, everybody was falling over themselves to identify with the team. This publicity has in a small way made the previously “invisible” minority visible and slowly a few doors are being opened for them.

The same can be said about other black minorities. The fact that their brothers are doing well on the sports scene gives them a reason to be proud (think of the French world cup winning team of 1998). Something positive to claim as theirs after suffering daily racism and being painted as lazy, criminally-minded types that are a strain to other harder working members of society (think of the French world cup winning team of 1998). This applies almost everywhere from Brazil to England to Holland. The Black guys on the pitch are the heroes of their people.

Therefore, if sometimes I tend to support all the African teams regardless maybe its because I want them to go out there and win one for the continent. Let the headlines be positive for Africa for a few days at least.

So am I racist or is there a better term for my “condition”?


Lovely Amphibian said...

The commentator on the Angola/Portugal game said that even if the Angolans had lost, they were beaming like victors because it did not matter anymore what the result was. They had arrived in a big way. Apparently, they had gone to the world cup to get contracts. Most of the Africans are going to play their hearts out but it wont be for the love of the country

and please, its all so cool to love your city that much but the background images...if my eyes start actin up, you are going down.

CountryBoyi said...

this is crazy but i think either ghana or tunisia are gonna win this world cup. i think God is gonna be fair and hand over the trophy to africa this time. don't scrawl, lets wait for time to judge us!!!!

savage said...

I hate soccer. Get me out of heeeeeere!!!! When I get a son, the instant he starts showing interest in soccer, I will know that it's time for a paternity test.

jkb said...

Do not blame yourself for having a soft spot for your kind Jay, it is human nature.

I always root for under dogs which explains the sudden loss of my voice lately. Go Togo go...

Mataachi said...

LA, I'll have you know that all the players at the world cup are also playing for better contracts for after the world cup. you think ronaldo, van nistelrooy are there just for the love of their country? and yes, they do love their country a lot too. right from the african-africans to the pale skin whites. you may find this hard to believe, but it is true.

but why am i so worked up?

AfroM said...

"I tend to support all the African teams regardless maybe its because I want them to go out there and win one for the continent. Let the headlines be positive for Africa for a few days at least."

I feel the same way! Here's hoping Africa triumphs not only on this WC, but also in its myriad struggles. Hope springs eternal

baz said...

Jay, I don't think it is racist per se, but it certainly is racial. Perhaps you need to ask yourself how you feel about a white man saying he will only support the teams that are predominantly caucasian.

Perhaps it is a function of the Monkeysphere:

That is a brilliant and very insightful article that will answer all your questions about racism. Trust me. It will.

Carlo said...

ok jay, i'm tired of reading half posts!! honestly, it must be me but there's a point where your posts will not continue showing and are just cut in half. this is the first one i've found where i can actually comment in ages! and it had to be about soccer. will someone please save both savage and i!!! please!!!!!!

p.s. tunisians are beautiful men and the saudis look black to me. yes, i'm forced to watch the games or i won't have any point of conversation to start with besides, "so, your first time here?"

inktus said...

many terms come to mind, "Pan-Africanist", "patriotic", "loyal".. and my fav, "normal"!

@ savage: ...errm... yah.. so what was that u were saying???

savage said...

@inktus- I was saying that as someone who has no interest in soccer. There is no way my kids would have it.If they do then possibly my baby mama cheated on me and they are really not my kids.

baz said...

jay, I am sorry for filling your comments section with links, but YOU HAVE GOT TO SEE THIS:

If you still think you are racist after hearing that absurd little man rant away, then I guess I'll just have to find another link to post.

Mil said...

Jay, I'm with you, I've been cheering for every team that's made up of predominantly black players. And yes, that includes Ecuador! There's no reason to make excuses for it; most African (Black, etc) people will understand why.
Go Black People (um, I'd also be ok if an Asian or Latino team wins ;)).

Yasmine said...

I have been reading all the posts and find them very interesting and i agree with a lot of the points given.
I am Greek and support Brasil, because I love all its players, I think they are super talanted.Are they mostly Black? Who cares! I look beyond the skin color, I look at the talent first.
But I do not tolerate prejudice and hate not only in sports, but in the world in general.
I would love to see an African country win this year especially in Germany ;)

Maya said...

I wandered onto this post after seeing it mentioned on the BBC site...I had previously posted on my blog the experience of going with my boyfriend to watch the game at his friend's house in Buenos Aires...he's Argentine and I'm the only African American chick in Buenos Aires at the moment. Once I saw that Argentina was playing against Cote D'Ivoire, I immediately defected-- much to my boyfriend's pleas of "but you're in Argentina!" But, sorry dennism...i don't think this is going to be the year for an African team. but it will happen, and i don't care if i have to pay a kajillion dollars, i will be at that game. Viva Africa!

Bronchitikat said...

Is supporting the team with the most black players racist? As Baz says - "how would you feel about a white person saying that they generally support the team with the most white players?"

I've met the kind of attitude before that seems to think that racism, or racialism, can only be expressed by white folks against black or coloured folks. Rubbish! Colour & race prejudice cuts all ways & shades!

On a lighter note, I came across yr blog via a BBC News article. So think I'll be returning for a different perspective on the world.

babesummy said...

I came across your blog on BBC. I liked the article. I don't think it's racist to support all black or majority black team. I will too. I am not bothered if a caucasian supports an all caucasian or majority caucasian team.

Anonymous said...

I am a white man who is supporting predominantly white teams. If that makes me a racist then it makes you a racist as well.


Anonymous said...

No, I don't think you're a racist, and there's nothing odd about identifying with football teams (or actors, or anyone else) of your own race. Although as a blond white man, I don't find myself gravitating towards supporting Sweden or other predominantly-white teams. In fact on Thursday I found myself supporting Trinidad & Tobago, largely because England were so poor they didn't deserve to win.

What I did find interesting is your use of the term "brothers". I know it's in common use and quite acceptable, but if I were to use the same term or say anything else implying kinship with other white people purely because of our race, I'd automatically be branded a racist. Racism is never going to be truly a thing of the past until little inconsistencies like that are ironed out.

ayoke said...

Well, I can’t say it’s racism (more like fraternity…) but if it is racist to support African/black teams, then you have company in me.

Pedro said...

So am I racist or is there a better term for my “condition”?

I'd call you a "miserabilist" (if the term exists).
In most areas of life one can't really chosse one's position (at least, not instantly). So people always believe that if they were given the choice of being either Bill Gates or the guy who does the cleaning at Microsoft, everyone would choose to be Bill Gates. Right?
No, wrong!
In football, people freely choose whatever club (country, in this case) they want to identify with. And LOTS of them choose to identify with clubs and/or countries that sistematically loose.
So I guess that if people could choose, most would choose to do the cleaning at Microsoft.
You're not a racist, you're a "miserabilist".

Anonymous said...

I will only support white teams.
Czech Republic to win the cup!

Jay said...

@Bronchitikat and Anonymous. You are both right and that is why I posed the question to myself. I don't think I am racist but then somehow I felt it just like I was.I guess there are "little inconsistencies" when it comes to viewing racism from different angles. It is because of those inconsistencies that i got thinking to myself.

These comments show me that there are many out there who feel like I do.

Anonymous said...

The BBC is the first to be racist.
They dont publish comments on their website that goes again their "middle of the road views".
Whenever an African team plays there are the first to remind us of "their colonial masters" as if football in 2006 is only has something to do with wwhoever invaded our parents land during the so call "colonial" time. They also keep reminding our teams that as World Cup newcomers they should not expect much forgetting that Senegal in 2002 reached the 1/4 finals.
Even worst ... they have hardly commented Crouch illegal goal against T&T ... even when replays clearly show it. Crouch "appeared" to have commited an offense they say when it was a DELIBERATE act of cheating.
When the same offence takes place against England ... death treats are sent to the referee.

~sandinmyshoes~ said...

No. Not racist. Just patriotic. It would be fantastic to have an African country win the World Cup for the first time in World Cup history.

I was crazy about Senegal in 2002. I wish they'd given them another shot...
Go Ghana!!!!!