I really do love the articles by Aki, they are always a fantastic read.
Here’s his latest.
CALLING SOMEONE A n*****. Making monkey noises. Playing blacks-versus-whites when there are no bibs. Having three groups inside the team: locals, blacks and foreigners. Is this the world of football? No! I have not really recognised any of this during my career.
I’ve only read in recent newspapers that these things have happened somewhere. I was shocked and decided to write about racism. I’m a white heterosexual male who goes to Christian church. So there is my problem already. I’m not racist and don’t even understand it €” and being a white heterosexual Christian I have never experienced it.
I have asked questions and tried to find out facts and opinions. All I found out was that I’m still a million miles away from understanding the subject, because receiving a couple of €œblondie” remarks from the stands doesn’t mean I’ve experienced any such behaviour myself.
It is weird watching, reading and listening to white heterosexual Christians commenting and debating in the media about racism. It’s like vegetarians talking about what kind of meat they like with their kebabs. I bet if you’ve ever experienced racism you can’t feel anything about these comments. You just think: €œThere is another redneck hypocrite.€?
It was 1996. My team was playing a friendly in Tallinn, Estonia. The announcer started introducing our team: €œNo 8 Mikael Forssell, No 9 Rodrigo, he comes from Brazil, No 10 Obiora Aniche, he is a n*****, No 11 Aki Riihilahti . . .€?
We were all shocked and couldn’t believe what we just heard. But there was no malice in the announcer’s voice or intentions, he just didn’t know how to act. In many parts of the world people are not used to seeing or meeting anything different than what they come across in their own society. When they are brought into a new situation, they have difficulty processing their own actions and words. Spain is not one of these countries.
For me the events of the Spain-England game were surprising. And extremely disgusting. I don’t mean the way England played but the behaviour of the Spanish crowd. I just can’t understand why? It should be a civilised, multicultural country. What were people trying to achieve with it? And who are these people? I can’t put a face to this behaviour, probably because you never see a face behind these kinds of incidents, it is all about hiding behind a group. I ‘ve asked almost everyone I know and some people I don’t know, but nobody has really understood it. Or what we should do about it. People seem to be very uncomfortable talking about the whole subject. Except some of these white heterosexual Christians.
It is not just about skin colour. The amount of abuse different looking people get is outrageous. There seems to be no law against abusing, for example, fat people or ugly people. We’re so keen on pointing out everything that is different. We are all aware of something we have different in ourselves and are most likely a bit touchy about it. You can just imagine how it would feel if 40,000 people abused you about your bad breath! We have worked hard to kick racism out of football and this incident in Madrid should just encourage us all to work harder. I don’t even understand where the monkey noise comes from? Does it mean that someone is shorter in the evolution process just because of his skin colour? That is absurd. If anything, the world of sport has proved that white heterosexual Christians are physically least evolved.
In kindergarten, children of different colours and shapes seem to be play peacefully. There is no racism or prejudice of any kind. So where and when is this kind of behaviour picked up? My father would probably take the first flight out of Finland to come and beat me up if he ever heard me abusing anyone. When I see sons looking at their dads being abusive at football matches it is just a matter of time before the kid eventually does the same. You might be a good father bringing your son to the game, but your responsibility can’t stop just because the referee makes a bad decision.
I’m a white heterosexual Christian. I have been brought up not to prejudice anyone. I have never been prejudiced myself and I’m really the wrong person to talk about racism. I apologise if my article has offended anyone, except that Spanish crowd. Still I’m going to offer a solution for how to end this conflict.
We should all forget everything else and start picking on ginger-haired people. Just kidding. It is not their fault, they are actually strawberry blondes!