Clamping out racist chanting in English football is long overdue

The issue of racism in English football is generally thought to consist of online social media abuse and from a minority of attendees acting alone within the stadium. However, there seems to be a growing bout of racist chanting by supporters, aimed at players from their own club.

This has come to light once again after a small number of Aston Villa fans were filmed singing a chant about summer signing Marvelous Nakamba at Carrow Road on Saturday, which referred to his dad as ‘a rasta’ and also made references to slavery.

Obviously an unacceptable act, the club has been urged to identify and ban the perpetrators after the footage emerged online following the game.

The line between a light-hearted humorous chant and a racist one is far from thin and the language and references used by those acting as Aston Villa fans breached what is acceptable quite considerably.

From hearing the lyrics, it can easily be assumed that those singing it are the common unintelligible individuals that one would associate with racially aggravated chanting at football matches. Nakamba is a Zimbabwe international, yet the chant argues his father is a ‘rasta’ – a member of a Jamaican religious movement that’s sole link to the continent of Africa is that it involves a pilgrimage to Ethiopia, a country located over 2,800 miles north of Zimbabwe.

The reference to slavery is not at all subtle, simply claiming that Nakamba’s teammate John McGinn is ‘his master’. Whilst a reference to the size of the former Club Brugge midfielder’s penis is also thrown in to complete the ensemble.

Villa’s response to the chant has been praised by Kick it Out after a club statement declared they were disgusted and appalled by those involved.

However, the idea of fan’s chants treading on racist overtones is not a new fad in the English game. Manchester United fans were banned from using a song about Romelu Lukaku after he arrived from Everton as the lewd chorus’ reference to the striker’s manhood was deemed racist by several campaign groups.

Although there is a clear variation between the offence caused by this chant and the monkey noises aimed at Lukaku since he moved to Inter Milan in the summer, whether or not something is racist is not judged on how much more offensive it is than something else. Racism is an objective matter, despite what some people would have you believe, yet some cases remain more serious than others.

In fact, it is very common for clubs’ fan bases to make a reference to genitalia when chanting about their black players, which whilst not being a derogatory stereotype can easily be seen as offensive in these circumstances.

The presence of racist chanting not aimed at the opposition is not limited to targeting solely the black community either. For years, Tottenham Hotspur fans have referred to themselves as ‘Yids’ – a negative alternative for the word ‘Jew’ – due to the club being located in a traditionally Jewish area of London.

Yet, despite being widely condemned and constant calls for the club to clamp down on it, chants of ‘Yid Army’ remain a common occurrence at Spurs matches.

It is hard to believe that this would be allowed if the word ‘Yid’ was replaced by a derogatory word for black people, even if it was aimed at those singing it.

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