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Ring a Ring o' Roses....

Ring a ring o’ roses. A pocket full of posies, A-tishoo! A-tishoo! Football is still racist?

Football for me has always been something of an excitement in my family, the cheers, the excitement, the game itself…the smell of the fresh grass hitting your boots.

I have fond memories of a child watching my friends playing rain or shine. Its universal. The beauty of the game is no matter what language you speak, what food you eat, what age you are, it binds humanity together. It doesn’t discriminate your gender, your age, or your skin colour….or does it?

Let me tell you a tale, of a 9 year old boy, and what he did today. Let’s call him Matt, for confidentiality. Matt is an adorable 9 year old, loves Batman, and of course loves football. Like most boys his age to play on the pitch. Today, on the 9th October, he was doing what most boys who enjoy football do…heading to a friendly match. Matt put his favourite pair of football boots on, and heading with his mother to Tudor Grange Academy, Kingshurst, Birmingham, representing U10 Coventry City, Midland Junior Premier League, to play against Arden Forest U10.

Just an average Saturday for Matt, and most kids really.

However, Matt, was forced to leave the match by the referee (who refused to provide his name, nor has this been provided by the organisers of the match).

How strange. Matt was not causing an argument, was not at risk or inappropriate to anyone, so why was he asked to leave? He was asked to leave because Matt refused to take off a religious bracelet (an article of faith) tucked away under his sleeve, which he has worn since a baby.

Apparently, the referee stated that this is jewellery! However, why was another child wearing his cross necklace for their Christianity beliefs, then also not asked to remove this, as this is then too jewellery? Because it is against the EFA equality Act 2010, where the guidelines clearly state articles of faith can be worn (section 6). Matt’s mother tried to explain to the referee about the Act, however he refused to look at the document and demanded they leave the pitch. When has religion or faith been a reason for any sport to prevent an individual participating? I don’t think I have seen that Act before…

In front of the large crowd of parents and players, Matt was hurt and shocked by leaving the match, thinking that he didn’t know being religious was a football sin?

If you are a religious individual and you or your child was forced off a sports match for wearing an object of faith, how would you feel? What if your child was forced out of school due to this? What if you were forced out of your workplace due to this? What if I, as a doctor, was forced out of my clinic because I wore a small religious necklace, would you think this is right? If you answer is this is not right, and that this is clear discrimination, then you won’t change your mind when I state that Matt, is actually a British Indian Sikh child. If, for whatever reason you think this indian child should have been forced to leave the match, then it shows that you, like this referee, discriminate towards others based on their faith or colour of their skin, and are part of the wider systemic problem.

Matt now believes him being Sikh, British Indian, is a crime in the sports industry and has succumbed to the harsh reality of the responsibility he has of having ethnic skin. A huge weight falls on his shoulders, and he hasn’t even reached secondary school yet. Is this the world we want out children brought up in? Having injustice for being oneself? Having to choose to exercise and play a game whilst scared of being humiliated by a privileged white grown man? The basic right to just kick around a ball, has indeed taken a dark turn. We have brought injustice straight to our kids on their pitches.

Is this really Britain in 2021? Has no one learned anything. The Euros 2021 if anything shows how much work Britain, and the world of football has leaps and bounds to go concerning non-Caucasian players.

To the managers of this referee, I speak to you directly: “If you allow your referees to be uneducated, racist, to children, and still pay his salary, then please publicly state his name in support from yourself…I am waiting for you to speak up. I hope I will never be your doctor, because trust me, I will report you, as is my ethical duty against racism. So, do the same.”

Ring a Ring o’ roses. A pocket full of posies. A-tishoo! A-tishoo! You let this child down.

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