I’ve nothing new to add to the racism scandal that marred the Bulgaria v England game. Everyone has had their say. Show racism the red card hall of famer Howard Gayle said this: “If England walk off the pitch because of abuse, racism wins.” Paul Ince said this: “I would have walked off the pitch straight away because we are talking about zero tolerance for racism.” Who was right?
Like I said, I can’t add anything new to that. I was reduced to tears when Tyrone Mings was greeted with monkey noises. A player who has overcome a terrible injury, making his first England appearance at any level and what a greeting he got. And therein lies the conundrum. If the players had walked off, Mings would have lost that cap. The game would have been abandoned and declared nil and void. Racism would have won. Or would racism have lost if England had walked off and stayed off?
As a white man, I struggle to accept I am entitled to a point of view on this particular incident. Perhaps, as a fellow human being I do have a point of view, but even black players, who are obviously the people affected by the obscenity that is racism, can’t agree. So, I just think about Tyrone Mings. And it’s full of what ifs.
What if Mings was badly injured the week after the Bulgaria game? What if he lost his place in the England pecking order? What if he never got another game for his country? I came to the conclusion that if Mings and the other black players in the England side wanted to complete the game, then who am I to argue they shouldn’t have, or that Mings would be denied his first cap for his country?
I have nothing but praise for the England team, the coaches and the manager. They decided collectively to do what they believed was right. Young men who had turned up to play football and were having to confront not just racism but fascism, too. Like Ince, you can say what you would have done but you simply cannot have a pop at our boys.
(Full disclosure: In general terms, I think Ince is a wanker.)