Saturday, 3.30 pm, Old Trafford. My team, the great Manchester United is labouring against the ostensibly average West Bromwich Albion. The home fans are becoming unsettled, and rightly so: I've seen better performances in the park on a Sunday afternoon. And then it happened...
Anderson, United's Brazilian midfielder gave the ball away needlessly. This was met with a chorus of groans, and one teenager, sat six or seven seats from me, shouting, 'You Black B*****d.'
I had often thought about what I would do if I were witness to such a blatant act of ignorant bigotry. I remember watching a TV show recently, pioneered by Stephen Fry, which underpinned a problem equal to that of chanting racial slurs. This being a general reticence on behalf of the public to unify and condemn such behaviour. This is precisely what happened at the football. Gazes remained fixed on the game, as if completely oblivious to this shocking act of racism.
For the remaining fifteen minutes of the half I barely noticed the match in front of me. I had made a decision to intervene and stand up for a higher moral cause. It was clear no one else was going to. I waited until the half came to an end. The young boy's mother was now in clear sight, her son the perpetrator en route to the concessions.
"If I hear your son say anything racist again, I will report him to a steward." Suddenly I felt empowered and garnered a local audience, shocked at my confidence. "My son is not a racist!" I felt sorry for this lady, for her sheer denial of my accusations stunk of desperation. She would go on to mumble her way through an improvised excuse. Apparently her son didn't say 'Black B*****d," but a 'Black erm... he didn't say B*****d.' Sure he didn't love, you should be ashamed. She scampered below; presumably to warn her son the game is over. Both reappeared for the second half and never made a squeak.
What then followed I found most poignant. Several fans told me they thought they heard the slur, but weren't sure enough to bring it up. This translates roughly to- not having the guts. And therein lies the problem. So many of are willing to conform, and just get through life not engaging in the correct conflicts. And yet that is so counterintuitive to a fair and democratic society, one which defends it's citizens of all origins.
The counter argument is 'free speech.' Yet in cases such as this, where there has been such a blatant abuse of this freedom; it makes a mockery of the entire human rights system. No one should have a platform to preach hate. That applies to politicians and football fans alike. I will not profess to understand the cogs embedded within a racist psyche, nor will I ever understand why such hatred exists. But, during my time on this earth, I vow to take a stand against those who run their filthy mouths, intimidating those who feel uncomfortable with their belief systems. I hope I'm not alone.