Darcus Howe tells Big Ron where to go
It was not a lapse: Atkinson was up to his neck in football's endemic racism
A few days ago, Ron Atkinson, an ITV football commentator and ex-manager, showered Marcel Desailly, a Ghanaian who captains Chelsea and France, with vicious racial abuse. He seemed angry at Chelsea's defeat at the hands of Monaco in the Champions League and heaped the blame on Desailly. Atkinson - thinking he was off-microphone, but whose words were picked up abroad - said the player "is what is known in some schools as a fucking lazy, thick nigger".
Football managers tend to be dictatorial brutes. They treat their charges with a paternal brutality that would have any father hauled up in court for child abuse. These men, almost all of them white, behave in a way that would not be tolerated in any other area of modern society. They infect the players with the brutishness they dispense. As a consequence, women and blacks - perceived as the weaker sections of society - are deemed the lowest of the low. Gang sex and racial barracking are the stock-in-trade of players. The game has become a sewer containing all sorts of filth not permitted elsewhere.
Atkinson is up to his neck in it. He pleaded a lapse in an otherwise unblemished career, which included signing several black players when he was manager of West Bromwich Albion. Yet Atkinson once alluded to a Cameroonian player's mother who, he claimed, lived up a tree in Africa. He boasted about how he had made Cyrille Regis, one of the blacks he signed while at West Brom, travel to away games at the back of the bus, as blacks were once forced to travel in the American South. Ian Wright, the Arsenal and England player, once asked a players' representative to warn Atkinson about his racial jibes.
So steeped is football in racist muck that nobody thought Atkinson's behaviour exceptional. Even black people accepted it. He demanded from them, and got, gratitude for letting darkies into the game. Hence several black players were at the front of the queue saying that, though his remarks on Desailly were wrong, he is no racist.
Then what is he? A leader in the vanguard of anti-racism? All I have to say to Atkinson is: "Get thee hence." In case he doesn't know what that means, I'll translate into dressing-room jargon: "Fuck off."