It has been 2 weeks since Greg Clarke stepped down from the position of Football Association Chairman, and subsequently resigned as FIFA VP after having made some extremely derogatory and offensive remarks on subjects relating to race and LGBTQ issues.
Not only did he use the word “coloured” while referring to Black players, he also reasoned that there was a lack of South Asian footballers because South Asians had “different career interests,'' and that “if you go to the IT department of the FA, there’s a lot more South Asians than there are Afro-Caribbeans.”
This statement, not only puts a stereotype on South Asians (something we’ve been facing since the dawn of time) but also completely ignores the issues of systemic racism in sports.
Clarke also went on to make the claim that the lack of female goalkeepers was due to the fact that girls hated the ball being kicked at them hard.
He also suggested that being gay is actually a choice -- yes, really.
The fact that these remarks came from the Vice President of the highest governing body of football, makes it even more important to scrutinize the issue of equality in football and to have conversations about racism and discrimination in sports.
The use of the term “coloured” by Clarke in reference to Black players is extremely hurtful, as historically, the word is intertwined with values of discrimination and segregation in the United States that were brought into place by Jim Crow laws.
Black people were separated from white people in terms of which public transport they were allowed to use, or which fountain they could drink water from and which parts of the city they were allowed to visit, as these elements were described as “for coloured use only”.
The use of the term “coloured” is thereby wounding and inappropriate to use, much like some of the other stereotypical rhetorics that Greg used while justifying why South Asians were a visible minority in the sport.
Greg’s behaviour and sheer ignorance is only a tiny example of the bigger problem that continues to persist in many fields, including sports, such as the lack of empathy, understanding and established beliefs of equality in men who control the power in big organizations.
I do not classify myself as an ardent aficionado of football, but some of my closest people, including many in the South Asian community are madly in love with the game that is to them symbolic of unity amongst everyone.
It is absolutely heartbreaking to witness the ubiquitousness of racism, sexism and discrimination amongst people who are representatives of one of the most beloved games in the world.
Greg’s comments provoked a large amount of bitterness and opposition from various people, who were rightfully furious at him for having made such remarks.
Sanjay Bhandari, the executive chair of anti-discrimination group Kick It Out, spoke of how disappointed he was with Clarke’s use of the word “coloured,” and former England player Darren Bent, who is Black, inveighed his feelings against Clarke’s statements and tweeted: “Slip of the tongue was it, awful just awful.”
Clarke, after having apologised for making hurtful statements, finally stepped down from his position on November 10, 2020.
The problem however is far from over, and in fact, this incident once again reminded us of the discrimination that still prevails in the world and especially that comes from people in power, even if it is hoped that sports can be used to unify.
It is of utmost importance to not only address these belief systems of discrimination that reside within people in power, but also to make an organizational and global effort to change it by making values of equality, a must-have (and not just a good-to-have) for any person in a position of power and fiercely critiquing those who lack such values.
Football has forever united people on the pitch, and it is an equal responsibility to maintain its values, off the pitch as well.