Racism, Xenophobia, and Labor Day

You don't labor on labor day

It’s labor day here in America (or labour in England) and it’s a tradition that we don’t work. Conveniently, there’s also not shite happening with Arsenal this morning.

So, just a quick round-up of Arsenal players and their international duties. Followed by a round-up of Arsenal’s team injuries. All washed down with a bit of Thierry Henry taking the piss out of Raymond Domenech.

Now, since you’ll probably want to talk about something while at work and since I don’t want to write something I will instead just ask a question and let you all respond.

During yesterday’s kickaround I had no less than two people say that this whole Rooney/Terry/Eduardo controversy has made them so sick of the EPL that at least one is swearing off the Premier League this year. The one guy said that the English xenophobia has gotten so strong and so obvious that he’s just not going to watch it while the other guy pointed out that he felt there was also an element of race in this whole thing. I have written about this topic quite extensively; UEFA and FIFA’s seemingly pro-racism policies when it comes to Zenit, the seemingly racist and xenophobic reaction to Taylor breaking Eduardo’s leg, or Phil Neville’s insane proclamation that “foreigners” tackle dirty, and of course last week’s crazy statements by England captain John Terry that only foreigners dive. It seems like I have to write about this pretty much every month and it seems like English players and the English press love to blame “foreigners” for all of the EPLs ills (even foreign owners are to blame for the credit crisis!). Since I’m tired of writing about this every week, this is your chance to write in and talk about what you think.


As an Arsenal supporter, what part do you feel that race and/or xenophobia play in the EPL, in decisions on the field, on the comments made by iconic players, and in the post match commentary by pundits?


  1. I’m from another American Arsenal blog, Arsenal Station and I gave 7am Kickoff a shout out in an article on just this topic yesterday. Keep up the good work!

  2. Not really an analysis, but I have always been bothered by English announcers and their incessant need to point out the nationalities of the players.

    “The Irishman passes to the Brazilian, who passes to the Scot, who passes to the Spaniard.”

    It is a small issue, but I think it just adds to how the race and nationalities of the players out there are in the front of people’s minds.

    That said, I think decisions on the field are actually devoid of racism and Xenophobia. I think the refs, both FA and UEFA refs, do a good job, for the most part, at leaving race out of the equation. Their decisions are usually swayed more by home crowds and big teams.

    The pundits and the iconic players? Racism, pure and simple. But I just don’t think they know any better. I mean, these guys are not the most educated dudes on the planet.

    I love the EPL, I think it is a fantastic league, I love how it attracts the best players from all over the world. This is a new phenomenon however, it was not too long ago the league was 90% English. I think it is just going through some growing pains, pains that will end sooner than most think.

    1. @Matt, a literally did a double-take when the Man U v. Arsenal announcers were talking about what a great start Rooney had gotten off too and the one guy said “Yep, and the best thing about him is that he’s English.”

      And like 1 minute later he dived for the penalty.

      1. @Tim, I missed that. Yeesh.

        His point might have been is that he is English, so he plays for England, which is good for England’s chances in 2010. I hope that is what he meant anyway.

    2. Matt, you should read cpta below. Everything we do reflects our experiences, our upbringing, culture etc. i.e. our collective understanding, view again etc. How can you exonerate a referee from racist or political, cultural etc bias or xenophobia on decisions s/he makes on the field? Remember s/he lives amongst xenophobic and racially biased communities. How can s/he escape from all that? The level of their education does not matter, which in any case is central to these biases. The case with England and the english (as well as other big european nations Germany, France, Spain, Portugal etc) is far worse as it is historical. England and its people have had a history of subjugating other peoples – they have colonised other peoples e.g. Ireland, America (e.g. present day USA), Africa, India etc. During this period the english have always imposed their will, culture, perceptions, and the lot. The culture of the colonised was viewed as inferior and not worth, and the colonised were supposed to give up their culture and take i.e. learn the superior-good english culture. They have come to view other peoples as a lesser being. True you might say that this is no longer the case. Yes, it is in the general view and laws (written laws), but peoples perceptions and inner feelings do not change so suddenly. That is why in England foreigners will always be treated the way they are treated e.g. cannot be as honest as the english as if honestness is unique to the english. To be fair to the english, this is not a problem unique to them alone, it is, I would say, human nature, “we love our own more than we love others”. As a people we are always weighed down by our history, culture, experiences etc. whatever we do is very much tied to these. The referees in the EPL do not have to be conscious of their racial, foreign etc biased. These biases manifest in subtle issues like easily calling a foul when Rooney goes down but not when Arshavin, a russian, or Diaby, or Torres goes down. Even here (in my example) a foul will be called much easier for Arshavin and Torres that it is for Diaby. Here, to simplify matters, the referee can easily give the benefit of the doubt to Rooney than s/he can give to Diaby or Arshavin. These MAn U nad Arsenal players have been used just as examples. They can be any other foreign or english nationals. What manifests among referees also manifests with commentators, the media and fans (even Arsenal fans, which I think they are the worst in this respect). Fans, you ask, yes, fans. Witness the blame to Almunia (last weekend) and for Toure a couple of years back in the quarter final against liverpoolI. In both cases the penalties given were dubious. In last weekend it was clear, upon replay, Rooney simulated, still, Almunia is blamed for causing a penalty! I will stop here. Thanks.

  3. I think the english media, john terry and wayne rooney are full of shit. The whole eduardo diving thing is because the english media jumped on celtic’s sour grapes when they called for him to be banned and it snowballed. Its ridiculous

    1. @TorontoTony, Eduardo is a double whammy in the eyes of football pundits everywhere: he is a foreigner playing in England, and he is a Brazilian that plays internationally for a European nation.

      The thing most pundits forget, is that most nations “employ” foreigners on their national squads. Unfortunately, most of them kind of suck. Croatia were just smart enough to “draft” the right Brazilian.

  4. Footballers and their institutions are simply reflecting the racism that still pervades all facets of society. The leaders of the football instituitons (FIFA, UEFA, FAs) can speak of lofty goals (“Kick Out Racism”) but that message has not changed the the behind the door goings on in the corridors where real power lies.

    Since on the field ‘justice’ is meted out by humans there will always be an inherent or ‘unintentional’ bias in decisions made. Those decisions are the ones that get the ‘morning after pill’ treatment that starts out w/ “I’m sorry I made a mistake. I would say more times than not the real basis of those so called mistakes are biased judgments that are covered up w/ terms like “honest mistake”. It only becomes an honest mistake when umpteen video replays make it so obvious that you really can’t even scratch your head about it. The biased judgment does not necessary have to be racially motivated but could also be from political pressure, graft, cowardice or closeted support for the opponent in a contest.

    Many footballers may know something of the world but they maybe lacking the intellectual skill set to integrate those varied cultural inputs into a personal change of behavior or belief. I must confess that I like watching Skysports because it constantly exposes the ignorance of its subjects (no matter what the education level they might possess) in the interviews that they give. All the comments from a Terry or a Rooney don’t really matter worth a hill of beans other than becoming terrace fodder. Just because you are a ‘celebrity’ for 15″ and the media give you a platform does not give you instant wisdom nor does it overcome a deficient upbringing (eg. Joey Barton).

    I have a personal boycott against The Exxon Corporation because of the Exxon Valdez and the fight Exxon undertook to lessen their responsibility in the aftermath. Stupid comments by stupid people in the public eye fail to raise my ire to the level of an Exxon or a cigarette manufacturer. I do get small satisfactions from a McLeish begging Arsenal for a Traore or a Pardew trashing Arsenal’s foreigners then begging for loan player while at Charlton (Song).

  5. On another blog I responded to the original outcry that it was racism pure and simply (although the dive was a dive) but the pundits responded to it for a)Arsenal (the all foreign team with a foreign manager no less) and b)a foreigner with the ‘fall down disease’ and no less c) Celtic complaint to UEFA (through the SFA) about the dive.

    I also noted that Arsenal was a mostly black team whereas Celtic was made of prominantly Scottish and Irish player which might account for the lower standards of play (and why they lost).

    Added to this volatile mix was the anti Arsenal, in particular and the anti EPL in general of Michel Platini.

    The danger lies in the future when does Eduardo become a beacon for red cards every time he’s tripped, or falls over or looks to be about to go down. In other words is his career marked now in the EPL.

    Finally, will UEFA follow up and din any other players diving (not likely).

    As a postscript: The referee said he was calling a penalty not for the obvious dive but for the charge of the goal keeper in what he thought was an attempt to injure, funny that ain’t it!!

      1. Michael Sullivan- you bring up a pretty good point that I really havent had time to consider, and it IS going to happen at some point. Eduardo will be booked for simulation. Either it will be his second yellow and he’ll be sent off or it will be his fifth or tenth booking of the season and he’ll be suspended. I’m not sure how the suspensions work in the EPL, but if it is like the NFL where suspended players aren’t paid for the game, it could open up a whole other can of worms. If Mike Dean comes into a game biased, books Eduardo for diving and does not award an earned penalty, then he could potentially prevent Eduardo from being paid a substantial sum of money that he has fairly earned.

        The fact is that video replay has to come into the game to eliminate bias and very costly mistakes. A bad call in the champs league final can cost millions. Every other major sport other than basketball sanctions the use of video evidence because they realize that a correctly called game in an age where so much money is involved (this is especially true in European soccer’s case due to the prevalance and legality of betting) is more important than sticking with “tradition.” Tradition is great, but if purists had their say in every facet of life and refused to adapt and embrace technology, it would suck. Imagine a “traditional” US air force going up against a modern Russian air force- barn storming scarf wearing pilots flying biplanes vs. satellite-guided, thrust-vectoring supersonic Su-35s!

        Finally, the whole xenophobia thing is beyond me. Why would you care where someone is from if they make your team better? Why does it matter at all? While foreigners aren’t prolific in the NFL for obvious reasons, baseball and basketball are full of foreigners- and neither of those leagues seem to have problems with fans or the general public accepting them. For God’s sake, they LOVE Tony Parker in San Antonio (a buddy of mine works in their front office and got me a TH14 signed ball through Tony). Yes, people in TEXAS see a FRENCH guy as their main main. New Yorkers worship Mariano Rivera. Pau Gasol is Kobe’s right-hand man in LA and was a fan favorite when he was in Memphis. Ichiro was faster to 2,000 hits than Ty Cobb and got a standing ovation. All of these foreigners come into our leagues and absolutely ball, and I have no problem with it whatsoever. When you have a game that is popular on a global scale, you are going to have talented players from all over the planet, and most of them are going to relish top competition and thus wind up playing in the best league. While creating rules to keep players in their home leagues would do wonders for the MLS and boost the talent level of the Croatian and Dutch leagues, it would destroy the prestige of the EPL and without parity through a salary cap would result in even bigger gaps between the top and bottom of the tables. For example, if such a rule forced the likes of Sneijder, RVP, Huntelaar, Drenthe, Van Der Saar, Robben, and Babel back to the Eredivisie, chances are they are going to wind up at PSV or Ajax and to a lesser extent AZ Alkmaar. Not exactly good for business if you are the chairman of VVV Venlo.

        Sorry for the long post, but Blatter and Platini are morons. I love ALL sports and follow many of them very closely, but there are several elements of the beautiful game that need to be addressed. From a business and competition standpoint, the NFL has the right formula (at least until the owners opt out of the CBA) and I find it exciting to watch someone like the Arizona Cardinals make the Super Bowl after decades of relative obscurity and shortcomings.

        Now, back to the schoolwork I should be doing. Make it a good one, Gooners. Fire up the grill, drink a couple cold ones, and enjoy the rest of your day off.

  6. alot of english players get protection from the fa and the media. rooney, gerrard, terry and even owen. players like defoe are outsiders, but because everyone realises that he is an out standing player they stop talking about taking owens spot and now they are targeting heskey. its as though you are not aloud more than 1 black striker. the thought of hesky and defoe on the pitch at 1 time must send shivers down the spine of the fa. so if defoe makes it hesky does not; 2 different types of players who would compliment each other have to fight for 1 spot because they are black maybe. they seem to like theo; but then it took a foriegner to think outside the box. playing gerrard on the left does not work. i like milner in that left mid position. but the fa want big names to sell those england shirts. maybe thats why theo gets the ok?
    as for eduardo they defended the guy who broke his leg and now they treat eduardo like scum (ive seen the rooney and gerrard youtube clips) when he does what everybody else is still doing; mr rooney. the fa and the media think that we are idiots. as mr wenger would put it, the english lack intelligence. when we reach the world cup i can see that capello has restrictions, 1 playing gerrard on the left even though it does not work. 2 not being able to pick the best players in england. 3 not being able to pick the best 11.
    4 player power still as strong as ever.
    we will never win the world cup because black players do not generate as much money for the fa like gerrard and owen(2 players who do not fit in the 1st 11). carlton cole, defoe, wrightphilips, and lennon should be in the team. week in week out they perform for there clubs. hesky plays because he is a powerhouse he cant run fast or shoot or pass more than 7 yards, he also sits on the bench for the club. he has been excepted by the public just a year ago. before that he got blamed for very bad performance.
    so the england job is a hard task. sven said he was in charge and so did maclaren and now capello. they arrive with a bold move. sven brought in andy cole then chucked him. maclaren ditched becks. capello brought in an old becks and ditched fans favorite owen. but gerrard on the left is what sven went with. and that says it all.

  7. There are deeper divisions that those of the current xenophobic variety that circulate below the surface, and often above.

    One only has to think of the religious divisions between Celtic and Rangers, Hibs and Hearts, Everton and Liverpool even the historical animosity between the Spuds and us, all because Woolwich Arsenal moved north of the Thames.

    Colour, race, religion all go in to the melting pot, and produce the daft sentiments that get paraded time and time again. It happens everywhere, it’s the same in Spain, Basques, Catalans, Valencians, Madrilenos. Racial chanting in Madrid had already been identified and severely condemned.

    As for the pundits and players, many of them are not of the sharpest intellect, most reflect the views and opinions of their social backgrounds and peers. Unfortunately they are listened to, simply because they are in the public eye, and given air time and column space to air their biased and bigotted opinions.

    It will not change, except some other controversy will become the flavour of the day. All we can do is speak against it and do our best to redress the balance wherever and whenever we can.

    (It is worth considering that Dudu is most likely a more devout Catholic than the majority of Celtic supporters, and players).


  8. Matt,

    Unfortunately,racism in English football is not a new phenomenom, and has existed long before the formation of the English Premier League.

    You only have to look – if you investigate this issue further – at how those few black footballers that were allowed to play the game professionally were treated in the ’70s & ’80s to get an idea of that.

    And that’s not even touching on the rarely mentioned “lost generation” of black british footballers from that period, many of whom were more than good enough to have played the game professionally at all levels, but were denied the opportunities to do so because of overt & covert racial discrimination.

    Clyde Best, Phil Walker, Trevor Lee,Ian Wright, Paul Davis, Raphael Meade, Brendan Batson, John Chiedozie, Vince Hilare, Laurie Cunningham, to name but a few, were simply the tip of a rich vein of black footballing talent that was available in England at the time,but simply never allowed to flourish professionally.

    The number of black footballers playing the game today professonally in England at all levels, and in all on-field positions,is how things would have been in the ’70s & ’80s if players were recruited solely on the basis of their talent & aptitude, rather than on the basis of racial stereotypes & the unofficial ‘quota system’ that seemed to operate at some clubs.

  9. Unbelievable stuff written by ex ref Graham Poll about the danger of labelling Rooney a diver before the World Cup.


    And this from someone who is expected to ensure fair play? He basically puts his jingoistic attitude above the principles of impartiality and sportsmanship. I wonder how many of his English colleagues share his opinion. Judging from the games played so far a lot.

  10. I think it’s an over-reaction, myself. English commentators are biased towards English players – it’s a fact of life. They can emphasize with players who came from a similar background much more than one who was brought up in a different culture. There’s not an awful lot you can do about it, except stop watching the Arsenal and start following your local club. If you’re not willing to do that, you’re going to have to put up with the occasional spurts of jingoism and covert racism.

    Myself, I find it amusing that the most rampant coloniser of the 18th and 19th centuries is complaining about being flooded with foreigners. Ironic, you know.

    And to 615gooner, I’d suggest that the number of foreigners in American sports isn’t sufficient to attract the kind of hate that they get in Europe. I’m sure no little Englander objects to Thierry Henry playing for the Arsenal, but a lot of litte Englanders would object to a team of Arsenal Frenchies.

  11. evergrowing xenophobia in the premier league; now, the british media is harping more than ever about the eduardo dive than they did when his leg was horrifyingly broken by, guess who, a british player. what more don’t yu see?

  12. Xenophobia & Racism are ever present in the European fabrics of live. Of all the European counties, Britain is probably the most adept at covering it up. Others are probably not so discrete, which is why they (the others) are so easily accused, even when Britain do far worse.

    To give a simple example, I am British. But I am not English. If I was, I would be very much hated by the Scotish (which is one of the reasons why the SFA are up in arms against Arsenal, an English club); be very weary of by the Welsh; and deeply suspected by the Irish. Well I am not Scotish, not Welsh, nor am I Irish. I used to be classed as Black British; but even that is not enough any more. My new classification, even though my mother is American and my father African, is British Black African. We even have British Mixed African these days. It is all subtle racism to me.

    So to have what is going on in football in the EPL now is not new to us over here. If you are winning something for Great Britain, you are British so & so. If you are losing, you are XXX born British (xxx being the country where you or your parents were born). The XXX is priority 1 if you are black, priority 2 if you are white & so on. That will never change.

    John Barnes is never truly acknowledged as an English great player because he is British Black Caribean, always acused of playing better for Liverpool than England.

    So all the ills of the British society are, in their view, perpetrated by the “Bloody Foreigners”.

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