SRtRC Education Worker asks Mr Poyet, "What were you thinking?!"
Former Professional footballer Paul Mortimer works for Show Racism the Red Card as a football coach and education worker. He gives us his views on Gus Poyet's recent comments that Patrice Evra is a "crybaby".
Last week I listened, shocked, to an interview on Talk Sport radio station with Brighton Manager Gustavo Poyet. He was, I think, trying to defend his countryman Luis Suarez who has been charged with an alleged racially motivated offence, with the victim being Manchester United’s Patrice Evra.
Now normally I ridicule people who ring talk Radio shows as 'folk that may love the sound of their own voice' but I found myself dialling the number and waiting in the queue to be connected with the show. I had no success this time but that is just how offended I was with what I was hearing from a man that has played football in at least 3 countries and internationally, has been in England for 13 years as well as coaching and managing teams in 3 of the top 4 divisions. This is a man of the world, in footballing terms at least.
So for him to come on to the radio and accuse a black player of being a coward for speaking out against racist behaviour and not just leaving that language on the pitch is shocking. In my opinion that was worse than what Mr. Blatter said because Poyet works at the frontline of football and comes into contact with players regularly. He must have seen racist behaviour before in this country.
The question for me is really around the meaning of what he is alleged to have said and if it’s correct. Also his understanding of what racism means and why that type of behaviour is unacceptable. Here is a man speaking out with great passion about something he clearly doesn’t understand properly.
Poyet states that Suarez is “100% not racist”, how does he know that? The question should be is Suarez capable of racist behavior? Only two people know that for sure, Evra and Suarez himself, no one else can say for sure, not even Poyet.
The use of certain offensive words can cause problems, at times, when accusations are made. Some can mean different things in different languages but it’s about the context in which the words are being used. In this case the word in question, “Negro” is said to have been used, this can be used differently, as I said, but add this word to a few others and you can have a whole new and offensive meaning which could be what happened with Patrice Evra.
For Poyet to claim ignorance on behalf of Suarez is irresponsible and incorrect - Suarez may have only been in England for a few months, but he has been in Europe, playing in Holland for two teams for four years and is currently at Liverpool. He also has 52 International Caps for Uruguay so this is not a naive young man without any life experiences. This is a guy who was one of the stars of the last world cup, in South Africa by the way.
Poyet makes the cardinal error of defending alleged racist behavior by focusing on the perpetrator Suarez and totally ignoring the actual incident. Did it happen? In Poyet’s mind no it didn’t so is Patrice Evra making everything up? You tell me!! Quite often when racist incidents occur, you find people rushing to the defence of the accused, stating that they cannot be racist before really knowing the full facts. Often they only cloud the issue and make people doubt if anything really did happen.
For people to admit to having to adapt and change the way they behave towards people of colour baffles me. We all have morals that tell us right from wrong and we chose to behave a certain way. It would seem that where Poyet has come from it’s ok to see people of colour as second class citizens to be looked down on and treated in that same way.
What upsets me is Poyet’s understanding of what racism actually is. He says, "We are not allowed to say black anymore". I wonder where he got that from? Has he asked anyone about that? He has at least one black player on his books, that I know of, what colour does he call him I wonder and how must that player now view his manager? He also says that racism is not saying one word or treating one person badly, its bad treatment against groups. Again he needs to re-educate himself as racist behaviour against one person or a group is the same and always unacceptable.
The comment I find really strange is when Poyet says foreign players have to adapt their behaviour in England, so England should adapt to foreign players. That baffles and irritates me at the same time as racist behavior occurs all over the world, not just in England and it’s the responsibility of EVERYONE to work hard to stamp it out.
For him to question if we are right in this country with how we deal with racism and that we may be out of step with the rest of Europe scares me, as we all have a part to play as individuals. This is where racism can be eradicated but the fact that he questions our efforts and doesn’t see the progress made over the last 10 years tells you all you need to know about Gus Poyet’s knowledge and understanding of what racism is and the effect it has on its victims.
I would like Poyet to actually speak to top black players all over the world. To ask them their views on racist treatment; how many times they’ve been spat on by opponents; or had objects thrown at them, or been subject to the constant barrage of abuse week after week. He should ask them how they feel about it and if they’d just shake hands at the end of the match and forget it all?
When questioned regarding racist chanting, Poyet hides behind the fact that he has no control over what happens on the terraces in his own stadium. He is wrong, as he does have to at times take responsibility for the behavior of his supporters when they throw things on the pitch and racially abuse opponents of colour. How does this make the players of colour on his team feel? These remember, are illegal acts and as the Manager he must try to set the correct example for fans to follow. Do you think his recent comments help or hinder this?
The shame of this all is that if Poyet actually were to ask Patrice Evra exactly what was said and the context it was said in, would this change his opinion of Suarez?I would have thought that this was the way to go before going public in defence of his friend. The truth is, he cannot know as he was not there and did not witness the altercation.
The problem we have within our media is that reporting on these issues is never balanced. Recently, I listened to a top national radio station that had the presenter and two guests discussing this very issue. What they showed was their lack of understanding of this issue: they were three white middle aged ex-sportsmen who had never experienced any aspect of racism yet they were supposed to give a balanced view on the issues.
With people as misguided as Gus Poyet voicing their bigoted views on national airwaves with no real response or accountability for what they are saying, we will never be able to take the strides forward that we should be in combating racist behaviour. Issues like this that can and should be used to educate the public will continue to be swept under the carpet and racism will continue to be something we all know exists but is never discussed properly.
Paul Mortimer works for Show Racism the Red Card and delivers anti-racism sessions to young people in schools across the East and South East of England. Find out more about Show Racism the Red Card's educational workshops.