Google+ Blueprint for Football: Looking Beyond Appearances

Monday, May 6, 2013

Looking Beyond Appearances

This time next year, work on the unveiling of a new statue in West Bromwich town centre will be entering its final stages.  Known as 'The Celebration' this statues will immortalise West Bromwich Albion stars Laurie Cunningham, Brendon Batson MBE and Cyrille Regis MBE.  It will be a welcome addition tribute to three players who not only were at the heart of one of the most exciting teams of its generation but who, more importantly, helped break down the barriers for black players.

They did this in the best way possible: by showing everyone just how wonderfully talented they were.  People could no longer doubt the work rate of black players or their ability to last a whole season, both excuses that had been used to place an invisible barrier stopping their development.

Afterwards, black players starting becoming more common in English stadia as the doubts eventually completely evaporated.  Yet it would be wrong to argue that all the barriers have fallen down.

As per the latest census held in the UK, 2.6% of the population is British Indian whilst a further 2.1% Pakistani, 0.8% Bangladeshi and 0.7% Chinese.  That's 6.2% of Britain's population - or 3.3 million people - yet you would hardly know this by looking at mix of players who play at all levels of English football.

Talk to people in the game and you'll be given a number of reason.  "They're not interested" or "they prefer cricket" or some other excuse based on some generalisation.  It is not simply England that faces this situation because there are variations of it in every country.  Sometimes there is bias against an ethnic group, other times it is against people from a particular region.

A coach - any coach but particularly one involved in youth football - cannot act this way.  No player should be judged by the colour of their skin.  No player deserves less attention because of where they come from.  No player deserves to have to fight through barriers simply because he does not fit any pre-conceived notion of what he should look like or what his background should be like.

The above article was first published in Blueprint for Football's bonus bi-weekly newsletter.

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