Football: Infectious rottenness of racism

FOR reasons that should require no exposition, a great deal of embarrassment was felt in Israel recently when a black footballer, the Cameroon international Cyrille Makanaky of Maccabi Tel Aviv, had to endure a torrent of racist taunts throughout a match against Maccabi Haifa.

In his distress, a man sitting alongside me in a crowd of 43,000 at the Ramat Gan stadium apologised profusely. 'That we should hear such a thing in my country of all places is disgraceful,' he said.

Much to their credit, members of Israel's parliament immediately contacted their football association expressing not only deep concern but the view that it would be completely in order if a heavy fine was imposed on clubs whose supporters are guilty of racial discrimination.

A few days later I spoke about this with the former general secretary of the Israeli FA, Joe Dagan, who is as much respected in retirement as he was in office. 'This is a new problem for football in Israel and I'm not entirely sure what we can do to prevent it spreading,' he said, 'but spread it will unless we act quickly.'

Leaflets imploring supporters to refrain from racist behaviour were distributed before league games last weekend and Makanaky was solemnly presented with a sheaf of flowers on the pitch before turning out for Tel Aviv at Natanya.

Significantly, in some quarters this sensitive issue is thought to have arisen from the amount of football on satellite television in Israel. With access to more than 30 channels, subscribers receive the game from all over Europe. 'What you heard from those idiots at the Ramat Gan is what they have heard from football supporters in other countries,' said Joe Mirmovitch, who turned out many times in Israel's colours and was later their national coach.

However, listening to the taunts that were directed at Makanaky I was conscious of a massive irony. They are wrong, of course, those who comfortably suppose that racism is gradually disappearing from football, anymore than I am ever likely to forget the rotten theory advanced by a distinguished correspondent during the 1974 World Cup finals in West Germany.

Upon hearing that I had struck a bet with the then Derby County manager and former Tottenham hero, Dave Mackay, taking what appeared to be generous odds against Brazil, he shook his head.

'No chance,' he said. 'Why?' I asked, prepared to concede that Brazil without Pele, Gerson and Tostao were not the brilliant force they had been in Mexico four years earlier.

'Too many black players,' he replied. Elaboration was called for. 'Obvious, old boy,' he added. 'It's common knowledge that they haven't got much beneath the rib cage.' So what about Pele and any number of marvellous black boxers? 'Exceptions to every rule,' he concluded, smugly.

Some years ago, when Viv Anderson became the first black player to represent England, I went in search of the former Leeds winger, Albert Johanneson, who was the first black player to appear in an FA Cup final.

An extremely skilful footballer with unsettling pace, Johanneson found the burden of expectation so intimidating that Leeds, and this was before the introduction of substitutes, might as well have taken the field at Wembley with 10 men. After that, he quickly disappeared. 'I don't think we ever really understood him,' the Leeds manager, Don Revie, said. 'Albert had tremendous natural ability, but growing up in Cape Town had left him cowed and short of confidence. But for that he might have been a sensation.'

The search for Johanneson proved fruitless. A lost cause. A lost soul.

Memory paints the horrid picture of black players, including John Barnes, being abused by a squalid group of England supporters in 1984 on a flight from Montevideo to Santiago.

The picture changes. This year, Paul Ince became the first black player to captain England. But does it? What Makanaky heard could have been a sorry truth about mankind.

Sport
footballLIVE City face Stoke, while Warnock returns to Palace dugout
Arts and Entertainment
books
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone