Football/Soccer

Kenny Archer: Judge everyone on their (like)ability, not their race, religion, or nationality

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (left) celebrates his goal against Chelsea on Sunday.

WHAT do you see when you look at me?

Tone, no pun intended, has a bearing on that question but whether it’s asked openly or aggressively, the message should be the same: Don’t judge a book by its cover.

Liverpool FC legend John Barnes posed that question when recounting how, in a discussion about racism, a former playing colleague claimed that ‘I don’t see you as black’.

Barnes rightly responded: ‘Well, what do you see me as then? I am black’.

That’s the key point. It doesn’t make you better to pretend that you don’t notice the colour of someone’s skin – but it shouldn’t make any difference to how you perceive them.

Of course I see that Barnesy is black, but I don’t care in the slightest. He was a fabulous player and is an intelligent thinker and speaker.

I don’t care whether a player is white, black, brown, yellow, or pink – as long as he’s a Red, gives his all, and is good, as a person and as a footballer.

Equally, I’ll never criticise an opposition player for any other reason than what he does on or off the pitch.

Forgive the language, but why would you prefer someone ‘sh*te but white’ to a player who’s black but ‘crack’ (as they used to say about eastern European sides)?

The same should apply to everyone else you meet in life.

As Barnes has often made clear, racism is a problem in society, not just in sport.

When we look at others and insult them, it’s as if we’re looking into a mirror revealing the ugliness of people’s souls.

It really does boggle my mind that some Chelsea fans decided to label Liverpool’s Mo Salah ‘a bomber’ purely on the basis that he is a Muslim.

So is N’Golo Kante - the player whose change in positioning on the pitch has led some Chelsea supporters to verbally abuse their own manager and demand he be sacked.

In the twisted logic of bigots, is Kante OK because he’s ‘one of ours’?

Kante also happens to be black. So are Callum Hudson-Odoi and Antonio Rudiger; Willian is mixed race.

What do certain Chelsea fans see when they look at them?

Chelsea has long had a notoriously racist element among its fans, but every club has some scumbags amongst its support. Every club.

Because there are scumbags everywhere.

Like the Liverpool fan from Northern Ireland who racially abused a fellow supporter at Anfield. At a charity match. Jesus really would weep.

Why ‘tolerate’, perhaps even admire, Salah or Kante or whomever because they’re great players, but look down on and possibly abuse some random black or brown man you meet on the street or in the stands or on a train?

Sport is a lightning rod for society’s ills.

Yet sport, so often highlighted for racist incidents, can actually be a positive influence.

Consider this current chant sung by Liverpool fans:

"Mo Sa-la-la-la-lah, Mo Sa-la-la-la-lah,

“If he's good enough for you, he's good enough for me,

“If he scores another few, then I'll be Muslim too”.

The scenes when Tiger Woods won The Masters at the weekend really were remarkable.

The first black golfer at the Masters played there in 1975 – the same year as Tiger was born.

Golf remains one of the whitest, most privileged sports in the world, yet Tiger is its most loved player.

Tiger coined the term ‘Cablinasian’ to describe his heritage, a mixture of Caucasian, black, American Indian, and Asian.

Of course, Tiger is loved for his golfing prowess.

Manchester City and England star Raheem Sterling has spoken out superbly against inherent racism in the media and society, including the way that young players are judged differently depending on their skin colour.

However, his argument that the ‘only way’ to beat racists is to win is very debatable.

Not everyone can win, in sport or in life. Non-white people shouldn’t have to be brilliant in their chosen field in order to be tolerated, never mind loved.

Everyone can be good, bad, or indifferent; just judge them on that basis.

There’s no doubt that the so-called Brexit referendum, and the subsequent ongoing debates in Britain and Northern Ireland, have made more people think that it’s somehow acceptable to denigrate others on the basis of their skin colour, nationality, and/or religion.

Racist abuse of sports people at matches and on social media is on the increase recently, in Britain and in continental Europe.

There’s more openness and acceptance in the south of Ireland, but there’s still progress to be made.

The term ‘the new Irish’ is intended to be welcoming – but can we soon just start calling them ‘Irish’?

Words do matter.

The only reason to judge a book by its cover is looks. Mixing races has been termed ‘nature’s Photoshop’, and that’s certainly true when one looks at my wife and children.

Yet had my wife not also been smart and funny I wouldn’t have been interested in her.

Before someone bleats about ‘PC gone mad’…well, actually, go ahead.

‘Politically correct’ for so long has been a term of abuse.

In fact it should be a badge of honour, an indication that you do things the right way, treat people properly, only call them what they wish to be called.

So call me ‘politically correct’ if you want to. I still reserve the right to criticise opposition players, including Sterling, Kante, Harry Kane, Ashley Young, whomever – but never due to their skin colour or religion.

What do you see when you look at me?

Call me ‘baldy’ too; that’s also true.

‘Baldy b*stard’, though? Or ‘white git’? No, I will take offence.

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