I store my interest in European Football (soccer ) in three distinct subdivisions.
The first is business, strictly business. Whether it be sponsorship, sports betting, the machinery of relegation or the current ownership abandonment by Asian investors, I am tuning in daily.
The second is fandom but on an international scale. Soccer stirs my patriotic fires when our Canadian women compete in the Olympics, World Cup, or other major international tourneys. If you have spent five minutes in the presence of Christine Sinclair, you too will be a fan for life.
The third is my love for the World Cup when all of Canada has a reason to get involved because we each adopt a new homeland for a few weeks and cheer our guts out.
(Don’t get me wrong, I love watching TFC win their first MLS title, but even then, I have to admit the early days of BMO field in the old Carlsberg paddock make my heart warmer.)
Despite those three veins of interest, I cannot say I am a fan of the Premier League or La Liga or Serie A. I don’t wake up early on the weekends, paint my face, inebriate myself to cheer on my beloved Club. But I understand why millions do.
But last week, my attention drifted from obsessing over whom the Steelers would draft to European Football. First, like many, I was drawn to the trainwreck of a Netflix series called The Super League fiasco. Not since New Coke has the world witnessed such a vile consumer revolt. This revolt involved consumers, competitors, coaches, and commentators. Books, and yes, a Netflix series, will be written about this.
But as the Super League buried itself, another European football story emerged. That of a social media boycott by the Premier League, the English Football League and the Women’s Super League to protest abuse and discrimination. While not given the same attention as the Stan Kroenke in Wonderland debacle, this story is even more critical.
I am not trying to stereotype when I picture the European football fan. While we all have seen the portrayal of hooligans, Football in Europe is much more than that. It plays a community-building, family bonding, and nation-boosting role in society. It can take a poor lad from anywhere in the world and propel him to stardom. It provides countless hours of debate, camaraderie, and anxiety.
Soccer truly is a beautiful game.
Unfortunately, soccer, Football, I should say, is marred by cowards. Vile, ugly cowards who hide behind online platforms and spew hate. Racist, cowardly hate. More often than not, they will also bring this hatred to the stadium. But social media has given them the safest platform of all from which to lob their missives.
In their frustration, coaches, players, and leagues try to turn off their social feeds, not follow online, and retreat. That is a shameful loss for their loyal fans. But who can blame the targets of these offensive attacks? Why put up with it.
Racism is dominant around the world. I don’t have to tell you that. I also don’t have to say those that run social media platforms also know it.
The world needs one of these social media platforms to become a Super Hero. To use their clout, their technology, and their influence to combat racism. I know there are issues of alleged free speech, challenges in monitoring, and costs. But the world needs the leaders of these businesses to act.
There must be a strategy. There must because we are talking about racism.
Suppose the vile cowards can chase a star to shut down their feeds. What is next? To get them to quit the game, to deprive their fans and the country of their majesty.
Why not just stop the sport altogether? Now, there is an idea. How about the entire sport of Football follows the steps to the graveyard imprinted by the Super League.
Imagine that for a moment—a zero-tolerance policy. If, at any point, during a football broadcast, a racist remark is made, it will halt the game. How about every time a racist comment surfaces between games, the team boycotts its next match. How about every time a coward makes a statement, eliminates their country from international competition for a month? The second time a year?
Racism isn’t something that minorities who play Football should have to battle alone. They need the Super Heroes called owners, sponsors, politicians, media, and social media to join them on the pitch. If there is some doubt in the minds of the powers to be, I have a suggestion.
Read some of the attacks that and imagine the target is your son or daughter. Aren’t parents the ultimate Super Heroes?