Following on from last week’s introduction, Dan explains the motivation and first steps taken in starting his anti-racism campaign.
My One Game For All, Without Racism (OGFA) campaign first took shape on November 8, 2006. The location was the Pontcanna playing fields that envelope central Cardiff, which have provided many classic Intra-Mural League (IMG) clashes down the years and which are neighbored by the famous Millennium Stadium. The team which I was captain of at the time – Euros FC – was a true multinational outfit. As representatives of the European Studies department, this was to be expected. The squad consisted of stars with roots as vast as Sri Lanka, Brazil, Greece and Ireland, to name half the melting pot of nationalities. This was the first genuine occasion I had to introduce my team to my newly produced t-shirts, emblazed with the aforementioned logo and words. I arranged for the whole team to model the t-shirt before the match. It also so happened that I had liaised with a local Show Racism The Red Card worker, Sunil, to attend the match too, being it the Europe-wide ‘Week of Action’ against racism in European football. He brought along some SRTRC cards which I duly gave out to the team. We then posed for photographs in a show of solidarity for the popular campaign. Sunil was also able to secure support for SRTRC from other IMG teams. It proved a very productive day on and off the field, as we managed to secure Euros’ first ever IMG victory and I sold my first t-shirts. Our efforts would go onto receive coverage on the KIO and SRTRC websites as well as in Cardiff University’s renowned student newspaper, the Gair Rhydd. Sunil would return later that season where more IMG teams would get onboard SRTRC’s efforts.
I would go on to sell my t-shirts to various friends, with some going as far as Australia. It was not until the end of the university calendar that year when my campaign started to take shape on a larger scale. I live in Bristol and back then I was looking for various temporary jobs. One day, I went to Bristol City’s Ashton Gate stadium to meet the catering manager and be shown around the ground with a view to working there. After the tour, I was on my way out, when I noticed what I could only assume was a player due to his build and physique. I nervously went and approached him, attempting to work out how I would start the conversation with someone I did not recognize but knew was a footballer. He turned out to be Kevin Betsy, a midfielder who was once on Fulham’s books. I told him all about my t-shirts and explained that I was keen to interview him about his experiences of racism in the game. He kindly obliged and a few days later I returned to the stadium armed with a hand-held video camera, tripod and OGFA t-shirt. I proceeded to ask him some candid, honest questions about the issue and Betsy gave some very honest answers, although it became apparent that racism was not something that had hindered his career as a footballer. He did however offer some very sound advice to any young players out there that may at some point be unfortunate to suffer such abuse.
He explained that however hard it may be, the most important and sensible thing a player can do is get on with the game. He told me how he had been the victim of abuse by opposing players as well as from supporters while in Eastern Europe. What was interesting was that he offered a possible explanation for this, in that the fans were unaccustomed to coloured players and that it was merely a question of cultural differences. He felt that Samuel Eto’o’s approach of threatening to walk off the pitch is too drastic. He did agree that banning fans guilty of abuse could be an appropriate course of action though. The main message he convoyed was: “let your football do the talking.’’ An appropriate message for players of all levels in my opinion.