England’s footballers played a European Cup qualifier last night in Bulgaria. They won by the comfortable margin of 6-0, and could have scored many more, given the woefully poor quality of the opposition. But it is not for the sporting routine that that night in Sofia will linger in the memory, but the vicious racism exhibited by some of the home “fans”.
On at least two occasions, manager Gareth Southgate was close to taking his team off the field, such was the abuse coming from the stands. It was like a ground in England forty years ago: monkey chants, jeering, verbal abuse, added to which were open displays of Nazi salutes. The players, to their credit, continued. Some “fans” were later ejected.
On the face of it, today’s response from the press is to be commended. The authorities in Bulgaria know that, whatever excuses are generated by some of their own commentators - one accused Southgate of “exaggeration” after the match - there could be sanctions imposed by the footballing authorities. But some in the press were being hypocritical.
And those knowing that their record on racism is not exactly unblemished should include the Murdoch goons at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun, where today’s front page headline thunders “Outrage At Vile Fans … Nazis target 3 Lions … BULGAR OFF, YOU RACISTS”. If only the Sun were, shall we say, more consistently anti-racist.
Except it isn’t: we may have moved on from the days when the deeply unpleasant Kelvin McFilth sat in the editor’s chair, and the paper published openly racist copy aimed at the likes of Benjamin Zephaniah, but the low-level bigotry is there for all to see.
Like, oh I dunno, Rod Liddle asking readers “DID you hear that Diane Abbott interview?The one where our Shadow Home Secretary revealed that she had the IQ of an electric toothbrush which has recently been stripped of its bristles? And battery?”. Or Jeremy Clarkson. “Asked who his dream guest would be, he retorts: ‘Jeremy Corbyn — he’s supposed to be thick, so get him on and have his phone-a-friend as Diane Abbott.’”
The black woman who went up to Cambridge gets called stupid. But it’s not racist, honestly. More recently, the Sun has been fully invested in anti-Muslim racism, from the totally invented “‘MUSLIM CONVERT’ BEHEADS WOMAN IN GARDEN”, to Trevor Kavanagh asking what, after Brexit, will be done about “The Muslim Problem”.
When there was outrage at Kavanagh’s use of a 1930s Nazi-era phrase, along came Brendan O’Neill in Spiked, so called because it should have been long ago, to defend his use of it. Bren’s reward? More columns in the Sun for Himself Personally Now.
On top of that was Trevor Phillips - use a black author and you can’t be called racist - joining in the kicking of Tower Hamlets Council over the “Muslim Fostering” case, making a number of viciously defamatory statements about the taking of a child into care.
But now, when it is Our Team on the receiving end of the racism, all is transformed, and the Sun is reinvented as an unswerving opponent of bigotry, whatever its form. Excuse me for remaining unconvinced - until the rest of the prejudicial bile is also shown the red card.
The Sun is merely a fair-weather opponent of racism. Don’t buy the Sun.
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