Aki Riihilahti - The Official Homepage In English Suomeksi PŚ norsk
News Questions Facts History Pictures Special

News

Back to News

28.11.2004
Race against racism

Calling someone a nigger. Singing monkey chants. Playing black versus whites when bibs were forgotten. Having three groups inside the team: locals, blacks and foreigners. Ladies and racists, is this the world of football?

No! I have not recognised any of this during my football career. Iíve only read from recent papers that these things have happened somewhere. I was shocked and decided to write about racism. Iím white heterosexual male who goes to Christian church. So there is my problem already. What relevant can I say? Iím not racist, donít even understand it and being white heterosexual Christian I have not experienced it. I have asked questions and tried to find out facts and opinions. All I found out was that Iím still millions of miles away understanding the subject, because receiving couple of blondie remarks from the stands doesnít mean Iíve experienced any such behaviour myself. That is exactly what I want to point out in this sensitive issue.

It is weird watching, reading and listening white heterosexual Christians commenting and debating in the media about racism. Itís like vegetarians talking about what kind of meat they like with their kebabs. I bet if youíve ever experienced racism you canít feel anything about these comments. You just think that there is another red neck hypocrite. Obviously everyone is and should be against it and has judged it. So what? We have only stated and pointed out that there is a problem. Plus that it is too sensitive subject to really open it up and start doing something about it. We have not achieved anything if Spanish FA has written an apologising letter to English FA. In that the most encouraging outcome really is that Royal Mail actually can work sometimes.

It was 1997. My current team was playing a friendly in Tallinn, Estonia. The announcer started introducing our team: ďnumber 8 Mikael Forssell, number 9 Rodrigo, he comes from Brazil, number 10 Obiora Aniche, he is a nigger, number 11 Aki RiihilahtiÖĒ We were all shocked, couldnít believe what we just heard. But there was no malicious or racism in the announcerís voice or intentions, he just didnít know how to act. In many parts of the world people are not used to see or meet anything different than what they come across in their own society. When they are brought into a new situation, they have difficulty to process their own actions and words. Spain is not one of these countries.

For me the events of Spain-England game were surprising. And extremely disgusting. I donít mean the way England played but the behaviour of the Spanish crowd. I just canít understand why? It should be a civilised, multicultural country. What were people trying to achieve with it? And who are these people? I canít put a face to this behaviour, probably because you never see a face behind these kinds of incidents, it is all about hiding behind a group. Iíve asked almost everyone I know and some people I donít know, but nobody has really understood it. Or what we should do about it. People seem to be very uncomfortable talking about the whole subject. Except some of these white heterosexual Christians who have been stirring the subject in the media without really doing much good to it. Like me here now.

It is not just about skin colour. The amount of abuse all different looking people get is outrageous. There seem to be no crime law against abusing for example fatties and ugly people. It is also racist, you mob someone because how he looks. That is the tragedy. Weíre so keen pointing out everything that is different. Still we all are aware of something we have different in ourselves and most likely are bit touchy about it. You can just imagine how it would feel if 40000 people would abuse you about your bad breath in front of your family.

We have learned and made it clear that we donít want and need this kind of behaviour. We have worked to kick racism out of football and the word in the street is that weíve been heading the right way apart from this recent incident. It should just encourage our will to work harder for the cause. However we shouldnít go too far with this either. We canít just label everything as racist remarks. If we banned all the discussion and joking about different cultures we would be missing out. Itís not offending if someone calls me a blondie or asks if my relatives are polar bears. I find it funny. We still need to be able to tease French about frogs and Germans about wearing leather pants. However making monkey chantss is definitely way over the line. I donít even understand where does the monkey chants come from. Does it mean that someone is shorter in evolution process just because of his skin colour? That is absurd. If anything the world of sports have proved that white heterosexual Christians are physically least evolved.

In kindergarten all coloured and shaped kids seem to be playing peacefully with each other, there is no racism or prejudice of any kind. So where and when is this kind of behaviour learned? All I know that my father would still take the first flight from Finland to come to beat me up if he ever heard me abusing anyone. When I see sons looking their dads being abusive at football matches it is just a matter of time when the kid eventually does the same. You might be a good father bringing your son to the game, but your responsibility has to last all the bad calls referees might make. Part of the education process is to teach your son to treat everyone as individuals and to respect that individuality.

Iím white heterosexual Christian. I have been brought up not to prejudice anyone. I have never been prejudiced myself. I want and can only judge it but Iím really a wrong person to talk about racism. I apologise if my article has offended anyone, except that Spanish crowd. Still Iím going to offer a solution for how to end this conflict. We should all together forget everything else and start to bully gingers! Just kidding. It is not their fault, they are actually strawberry blondes!


Aki


Copyright 2001 Aki Riihilahti, all rights reserved Go to the Top of the Page