Football veteran Luther Blissett is calling on the children of Kent to help tackle racism in society.
Luther Blissett, the Jamaica-born former England striker is one of several ex-professionals promoting the Show Racism the Red Card charity, which last week celebrated the opening of a new office for London and the South East.
Blissett – who scored more than 200 goals in a career spanning 20 years – told KOS Media the children targeted by the campaign could teach their parents a thing or two about respect.
He said: “If you can get through to the youngsters and make them aware of why racism is unacceptable then you have a chance of doing something about it.
“Children are not born prejudiced. They pick it up from their parents or whoever they are associated with.
“As I told one or two of them this week, if they hear their parents say ‘let’s go down the Chinky’, or whatever, then they should ask them why they are using that sort of language.
“Then maybe they will think twice about using it again.
“Kids are not stupid, they’re very clever, and if we can educate them from an early age then we might help make racism a thing of the past.”
Watford legend Blissett, 51, made history in 1982 when he became the first black player to score a hat-trick for England, on his debut against Luxembourg.
However, not all of the powerful forward’s matches were so enjoyable, as his career coincided with the dark days of English football when crowd violence and racism was rife.
Blissett, who also played for AC Milan, said: “Every week you got it. At home it was from the away supporters and when you went away it would be their own fans.
“Occasionally one or two players on the pitch would get involved too.
“It was the usual name-calling but I learned not to show people that it hurt. If you can just smile at it then very soon they will get bored, but it can have a bad effect on some people.
“There were better black players than me who should have gone on and had better careers but suffered when they reacted to abuse in an adverse way.
“It was seen as normal and OK to abuse people back then, so when some players stood up for themselves others would say they had a chip on their shoulder.”
Established in Whitley Bay, near Newcastle, in 1996, Show Racism the Red Card harnesses the high profiles of professional footballers – including former Gillingham defender Efe Sodje – to combat racism in society.
The charity’s new London office will enable its staff to forge closer links with clubs like the Gills, as well as with the hundreds of schools in Kent and Medway.
Chief executive Ged Grebby said: “The BNP is just the tip of the iceberg of the problem in this country, but I think that shows that racism is not just football’s problem.
“Football has done more than any other sport to tackle racism, but unless you get rid of it in society then it will come back to haunt football time and time again.”
Source: The Kent News