We spoke to Aston Villa and Welsh International James Collins about his thoughts and experiences of Racism in Footballl
Show Racism the Red Card interviewed James Collins recently and the footage will form part of our new anti-racism film
Did you encounter racism at all when you were growing up
No, not really. I have been involved in a few games, going back to when I started, where there had been the odd shout from the crowd. Obviously it did die down but with the scenes in the press and what is going on at the minute it seems like it is creeping back in, which is a massive shame.
What action can be taken by the players to try and limit racism becoming a problem in the game once more?
I don’t think it is down to the players because the players are the people that are getting the abuse. I think it’s down to the hierarchy like The FA and certainly stewards who work at the games – if they hear shouting or chants that are racist, those people have got to be thrown out of the ground and banned.
As a Welshman, have you come across any difficult situations because of your heritage?
No, not really. There is the odd shout in the ground, but you have got to take it with a pinch of salt. They can shout all they like, I am there to play football and if they want to shout about my country I can take it with a pinch of salt because I am proud to play for my country.
How do you handle it and what advice would you give to a young person who may be suffering from racism?
It is obviously very hard if you are targeted by racial abuse and I think you’ve got to try and ignore it as best you can and let the hierarchy deal with it. You don’t want to take matters into your own hands because that’s when problems can happen. If these people are there shouting at you, you have just got to do your best to get on with it and let other people deal with it.
As an international sportsman, have you noticed any racism when you have been playing away?
Yes, we have been away a few times with Wales and there has been some. We’ve gone into Europe and some of the chanting has been disgusting really, against some of our players. Again, this is going back a few years but I think a few of the England boys and recently Wales went away and we had a similar incident. It seems to be not only happening in the Premier League again at the moment, but seems to be going on worldwide.
There are many stereotypes about being Welsh. Do you almost have to laugh about it?
I think you have got to – obviously it is not nice to hear but I think it is something you have got to take on the chin as a sportsman.
Do you think the media have a role to play? Sometimes the media don’t help the situation do they?
I think you are spot on and I think a lot of the stuff that has come out over the last few weeks has been blown up by the press. Obviously there is an incident there that has caused it, but I don’t think the press have helped in any way.
Are there any situations you can think of where racism can be seen to be acceptable?
Obviously it is never ok, and if it is found that it has happened in the recent situation then that is definitely not ok. They are two well known players with which the incident has happened and certainly the press have jumped all over it, so the sooner it is all sorted out the better. There is no room for it in the game.
Is having so many different cultures and nationalities as clubs an enriching experience?
Yes, it is great having all the different countries and the lads form around the world in the team. It is such a vast range of languages and knowledge in the dressing room and it is really good.
It could be argued that this kind of diversity is needed in our stadia as well as in the dressing rooms. Would it mean a lot to you to see lots of different kinds of people going to games?
It has got to be because football is a world game, so anyone who wants to come and watch us is more than welcome.
There is a great deal of Islamophobia at the moment, with many people believing that many Muslims have terrorist tendencies. What do you make of that?
It’s ridiculous you know; some of the stuff that is said – and the press have a lot to do with it again – is nonsense and it is not needed. That is not just in football, but in any walk of life.
Getting on with someone isn’t just about their racial background, it is about having a common interest isn’t it?
It’s irrelevant because if you get on with a person, you get on with them – it doesn’t matter where they come from, what colour they are or what language they speak. We are all the same people deep down and, if you like someone, you are going to get on with them.
What about younger people – do you feel that they sometimes deal with things like this in a different way?
Of course; if you are subject to that sort of thing you have to deal with it in your own way. Personally I take it with a pinch of salt and sort of laugh at it – it is easy to get down about it, but sometimes you have got to take it and use it as a positive.
Some of the banners that go out in houses and such are almost saying that they are racist and proud – that isn’t the sort of message you want youngsters to see is it?
No, exactly. Like we’ve said before, it is not just in football where it happens but all over the world in every walk of life. There is no place for it at all.
There can be confusion between showing pride in your country and being racist. To sing the Welsh national anthem at a Rugby Union match doesn’t mean you are racist towards other nations does it?
Of course it doesn’t, and like I said before, we are all the same people deep down and people shouldn’t be discriminated against because of their colour or where they are from. If you are going to be pals with someone, you are pals with them.
Some other interviews of players in Wales can be found on our Welsh YouTube channel that can be found HERE