Chelsea and West Ham fans have offered a reminder of football's ugly past.
Joey Barton: will he ever learn?
Nasty little outbursts of racism, in Paris, St Pancras Station – Chelsea fans – and on the tube among West Ham fans returning from the draw against Spurs at White Hart Lane.
No excuse for any of it, but although the brutish action of Chelsea fans pushing a hapless black man off the Metro in Paris, accompanied by a mindless boasting chorus of how glad they were to be racists was indefensible, it pales by comparison with what went on among racist Chelsea followers in bygone years.
Their former winger Paul Canoville could tell you all about that. He was in fact pressed into service by a daily newspaper but though he alluded to his dire problems, lamenting what had gone so wrong in Paris, he glossed over the full bitterness of what he had experienced at Stamford Bridge.
The first black player to appear for Chelsea, he was subjected to repulsive choruses of abuse whenever he appeared at the Bridge, and ultimately and inevitably it forced him out of the club and into some difficult years.
This was the era of the so-called Chelsea Headhunters, a neo Fascist crew who went far beyond verbal abuse, though they were given to that, too. Violence was the essence of them and they actually roamed the country with their aggression and their weapons, seeking to attack supporters of other clubs all over England.
Eventually their group was penetrated by an immensely courageous undercover police officer, who survived his masquerade and gave evidence against them in court, resulting in long sentences being imposed on several members of the gang.
Yet by a colossal irony, the verdicts were overturned on appeal, since the notes that the policeman had bravely and surreptitiously taken were pronounced inadequate. Quite what he could have resorted to in any other way – with a wire, perhaps? – who can say. But escape the miscreants did and though there is plainly still a racist, lunatic fringe, it pales by comparison with what went so shockingly before.
In parenthesis, and in no way attempting to mitigate the racism of those Chelsea fans on the Metro, the more peaceful majority had every reason to complain of their arbitrary treatment by the Paris police who refused to let them into the match against PSG at the Parc des Princes until 25 minutes into the game and also reportedly used tear gas.
West Ham United fans meanwhile disgraced themselves after the London derby by singing, “I’ve got a foreskin, how about you? Effing Jews.”
One recalls reporting such a derby match at Tottenham a couple of seasons ago when there was much commotion over the West Ham fans behind the Paxton Road goal making hissing noises, to denote the gas used at Auschwitz.
Tottenham having a large Jewish following, which has led to their fans cheerfully and amiably calling themselves Tottenham Yids. A fatuously officious police attempt to forbid what was so obviously good-humoured led to a single arrest at a match, and was speedily abandoned.
Yet it would be grossly unfair to damn what racism there is in English football and overlook the often far more various instances of it abroad. In that same week of European football, the extreme violence reported in Rome came surprisingly not from the ultras of Roma and Lazio, in favour of cowardly attacks with weapons on harmless visiting supporters in the elegant Roman Campo dei Fiori, but from the Dutch: supporters of visiting Feyenoord who ran riot in the still more beautiful and central Piazza di Spagna.
Like some barbarian horde besieging Rome in ancient times they ran riot, smashing and destroying, even inflicting damage on a famed Bernini status. And Russia for the moment at least have acquired the 2018 World Cup despite an appalling record of racism, from Moscow to Leningrad. Nor do Italy and Spain emerge guiltless from the record of all too recent years.
It was a couple of seasons ago that Joey Barton might be said to have won the Premiership for Manchester City.
Not, alas, by playing for them, as he had in the past but for his wild outburst of aggression when playing for Queens Park Rangers in the last match of the League season at City’s ground, frantically attacking three opponents in turn. Off he inevitably went and City late in the game squeezed out the goal that gave them both victory and the title.
Last Saturday when the 19-year-old Queens Park Rangers right back Darnell Furlong was involved in dispute with Hull City players, Barton came rushing over, shoved Hull’s Alex Bruce and flicked Tim Huddlestone in the genitals. Off he inevitably went and QPR went on with 10 men to lose a vital relegation battle.
Afterwards came the belated inevitable apologies from Barton but this kind of thing has happened again and again before and will surely happen anew. The list is legion. Stubbing out a cigar in the face of a young Manchester City player in a bar. Furiously attacking a team-mate in a Manchester City training session. Fighting with a young Everton fan in a bar in Thailand.
Sent off nine times in his torrid career. Gordon Taylor the PFA Chairman, suggests anger management but it’s already been tried; and Barton has now collected nine red cards. All of which make his constant public quoting from what seems to be books of such things a trifle irrelevant. He remains an accident waiting to happen. Expensively.
The only moral and valid approach for the UEFA clubs is to boycott the ludicrous Qatar winter tournament en masse.