Stand up, speak up
Arsenal striker Thierry Henry
Henry Leads Anti-Racism Fight From The Front
1/28/2005 12:55:00 PM
It’s not often these days that Arsenal and Manchester United are heard singing from the same hymn-sheet, but Gunners’ striker Thierry Henry and United defender Rio Ferdinand joined forces as the Frenchman launched his ‘Stand Up, Speak Up’ campaign to counteract the racist tendency in European football.
As part of the campaign, ’Stand Up Speak Out’ black-and-white wristbands, available for a £1.50 charity donation, are being launched, together with a pan-European advertising campaign, and the players of both Arsenal and United will all wear the wristbands in next week’s eagerly awaited Premiership clash at Highbury.
If such unity sounds remarkable, so is the story of how Henry came to devise this initiative.
He was motivated to do so by the racist slur against him uttered to Arsenal team-mate Jose Antonio Reyes by Spain coach Luis Aragones.
The Arsenal striker revealed that he would be prepared to meet Aragones, who was filmed using the racist term to describe Henry during a Spain training session last year.
Henry said he could still not believe the Spain coach’s comments, and warned that the "game was suffering" because of the enduring racism problem in some countries.
"It makes me think of a proverb - you can always forgive but I will never forget," he declared.
"I could meet him, I would have no problem with that. I can forgive but it will always be in my mind."
Aragones has been investigated but not yet punished for his racist comments, having insisted he was merely trying to motivate Henry’s Arsenal team-mate Jose Reyes.
But Henry observed: "There is no possible reason to say something like that.
"When I heard about what he had said, I was preparing for a game with France and I thought someone was telling me a bad ...................
At this week’s launch he was joined by Ferdinand in bridging the recent divide between their two clubs, and revealed just why he had been prompted to do something constructive about this issue.
"I was asked what I wanted to be done and I said that I would like the authorities to step in a bit harder, but then I thought that I could bring everyone behind me in the fight against racism," he said.
"We are suffering out there as human beings but the game is suffering as well. We are aware that this campaign cannot change everything but doing nothing will certainly not change anything.
"Sometimes you don’t understand quite how hard it is to keep cool out there on the pitch in the middle of this kind of thing.
Race is the hidden subtext in modern European life. The Spanish behavior was excretable but racism has a long history in European football. But it clearly reflects a deeper problem that Europeans have in dealing with their increasingly multicultural societies. The racial taunting is nothing new, but as blacks gain a larger profile in European life, stands have to be made to ensure this kind of behavior is curtailed.
As an American, that kind of racial taunting is pretty much unknown. When Rush Limbaugh implied that Donovan McNab was being praised for his race and not his blinding talent, he was quickly forced to apologize and was fired from ESPN. A sports team, on any level, which tolerated that kind of abuse would be quickly sanctioned. Even the use of Confederate Battle Flags has been the subject of controversy, as has the use of Indian team names. Open racial taunting is simply not accepted in US sports.
posted by Steve @ 4:32:00 PM