10 Days Remaining

Wednesday 15th
posted by Morning Star in Sport

KADEEM SIMMONDS felt let down on Monday morning when he saw back pages dominated by Harry Kane’s injury and not the sickening chants from Millwall fans aimed at Son Heung Min

AT NO point did I think I would go to a football match and hear racist chants. It’s not that I believed racism in the stands had been eradicated, I just hoped so.

But that wasn’t the case. Last Sunday’s FA Cup quarter-final between Tottenham and Millwall was overshadowed by away supporters hurling abuse at Spurs’ Son Heung Min.

“DVD” and “three for a fiver” were visibly heard around the stadium, I heard it from the press box, and I always find it strange when a manager turns around and says they didn’t.

Mauricio Pochettino said afterwards that he couldn’t understand what they were saying and that’s understandable, he added that he struggles to understand what journalists ask him in press conferences.

But for Neil Harris to tell those in attendance after the match that he wasn’t aware of the chants, I find that hard to swallow.

He heard the travelling Millwall fans when they chanted his name and he acknowledged them with a wave.

He heard the fans respond to Tottenham’s “we’re going to Wembley” chant with a funny “we’re going to Shrewsbury” response.

So Harris isn’t deaf, just comes across to me as though he finds it easier to play the “I didn’t hear anything” card.

It was also easier from a media perspective to bury the racist chants and focus on Harry Kane potentially being hurt for a few weeks. Well that’s how it came across when I saw the back pages Monday morning.

I shouldn’t have been surprised as all the talk after the game was about Kane’s ankle and what it meant for the rest of the season. Some journalists felt that the racist chants were not a big story and underplayed it.

This is the same press that laughed at Fifa for disbanding its racism council and has no problem in looking down on other countries for their racism problem.

But Britain has one and was faced with highlighting it on Sunday afternoon. Not everyone did.

I felt that it was the only story to report on that afternoon. Tottenham won 6-0 and it was so comfortable that it was barely worth mentioning their dominant display.

I understand that Kane potentially missing the rest of the season has a wider impact as the England squad is named tomorrow but he may not miss any time.

Pochettino couldn’t confirm how serious the injury was so in the end everyone was speculating and trying to piece together the severity of the injury due to him rolling the same ankle against Sunderland at the start of the season.

So from where I was standing, it was a no-brainer. Racist chants had to be the back page of the Morning Star on Monday and if they weren’t, I would have felt like I was letting down the readers.

I was in the White Hart Lane press box wearing a Kick it Out badge and it would have been hypocritical of me to downplay what was said that afternoon.

I mentioned Kane’s injury in one line as I felt that was all it warranted.

Until anything else comes out, it is not a big story. The fact that in 2017, a group of Millwall fans felt it was acceptable to hurl racist obscenities at a North Korean player is disgusting.

Had it been monkey chants aimed at a black player, it probably would have garnered more coverage.

It is almost like we as journalists know how to deal with that kind of racism but were caught off guard by offensive charts aimed at someone of Asian descent.

There is no hierarchy of racism and what deserves more lines in the paper. It should all be reported equally and I didn’t think I had to say or write that.

One paper led with the Son story for their first edition, only to change their minds when they realised that everyone else was focusing on Kane. What happened to being different?

What happened between editions for them to think racism should take a back seat to an injury?

And the excuse that this was just Millwall fans being Millwall fans is no longer an excuse.

That set of fans were praised a few weeks ago for their strength and courage in taking on their local council and keeping their stadium out of the hands of greedy landowners.

Some even believed it was the turning of a corner for a fan-base known for their violent clashes with West Ham and other London-based clubs.

I was even advised against covering the game by friends due to their reputation for being racist. But I went, believing that this was a different, more mature and accepting set of supporters. But I was wrong.

And that’s not to say that every person that supports Millwall is racist. I don’t believe that. Every team has a section of fans who are sexist, racist or homophobic so to paint them all with the same brush is naive of me.

But you almost feel like Millwall fans enjoy their negative reputation. A banner was hung on Sunday reading: “Millwall, no-one likes us.” How is that changing the perception of them? Why are they so proud of this?

I hope the Football Association comes down hard on the club. At least one game to be played behind closed doors should be the absolute minimum.

Racism is “wrong in society and it’s wrong in football.” Those are the words of Millwall boss Neil Harris. He is right and the FA needs to show that it believes that.