Like many on Wednesday night, I turned on the television to watch Manchester City versus Arsenal to enjoy once again the escapism of football. Inevitably though, reality kicked in. The Black Lives Matter campaign became the political football in the build up coverage from the off, the game itself an almost insignificant background event. Football become a purely political platform.
Players shirts, adorned with the ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign slogan, served as an unnecessary reminder of the violent events on the streets in recent days fuelled by George Floyd’s killing. The news cycle is enough. Players shouldn’t wear these slogans at all. The Premier League, largely helped by the great strides made by Manchester City star Raheem Sterling to kick racism out of football, already has a dedicated #kickitout anti- racism campaign in place.
As former Brexit Party PPC Andy Stewart tweeted, referring to the #kickitout campaign: ‘English football already has an anti-racism agenda. Use that! Do not get embroiled in the BLM movement. All lives matter. Everyone matters! And every ‘non’ racist knows this. Football is, and should always be Apolitical. Stay that way’. As if the slogan wasn’t enough, every player took a knee – let’s face it, they had to – in protest. If they didn’t, they would categorically be classed as racist.
This is the current, tired trend of woke politics. These gestures should be a matter of choice, based on the individual, and respectfully so. In a refreshing spirit of individualism free of pc pandering, Dominic Raab stated in response to the gesture that “he would only take a knee for his wife or the Queen”. He is quite right to feel this way.
Ironically, FIFA has its own laws to keep football separated from such controversy that might politicise the game. Contradicting this, FIFA states that equipment ‘must not have any political, religious or personal slogans, statements or images’. Sticking to its own rules, FIFA would let the football do the talking. It shouldn’t venture into the dangerous minefield of politics – to do so is a very different ball game altogether. As the great Pele put it: ‘Football is the only sport where you put people together, it doesn’t matter if you are rich, or poor, or black, or white, It is one nation. This is the beauty of football’.