It’s pitchfork and lit torches time for me this evening. Those who have seen me at close quarters in the North London derby can attest to the fact that my usually calm veneer can very quickly become what others would describe as irrationally tarnished. It’s my experience of the fixtures over many years that causes these extremes of reaction.
The only other times I get over-excited, shall we say, is at perceived injustice. This injustice is often political in nature so it’s for the best that I don’t give examples here, isn’t it Mr Duncan Smith, bludgeoner of the disabled.
Those who have followed me a while on Twitter know that I can get pretty emotional about the unnecessary use of the ‘Y’ word these days. Racism is another topic over which I have low-hanging blue touch paper, and what happened to one of our young Gunners last night has got the veins in my neck bulging today.
I want you to picture a scene with me. Jordi Osei-Tutu, our 20 year old full-back has gone on loan to Vfl Bochum in Bundesliga 2. He made his debut in a pre-season friendly, yes friendly, against the Swiss team St Gallen. Three minutes before half-time He had what appeared to be an exchange of words with the Swiss club’s Tunisian defender, Sliman Kchouk, as reported in the Daily Mirror by Liam Prenderville.
The upshot was a visibly upset Osei-Tutu, after an angry exchange with the referee, left the pitch apparently in tears. Although he missed the remainder of the half he did return to the action after the break.
Before I get busy with my implements of protest I have to consider that I did not see the incident live, and am therefore bound to come to a view based on the likelihood of probability interpreting the statement of others and the evidence of a video of the incident.
Firstly I am bound to ask what would cause the young player to react in such a way on his debut for a club on whom he clearly wants to make an impression this season in order to enhance his future prospects at The Arsenal. On this basis alone it is clear that something occurred to prompt it.
Secondly the reaction of the St Gallen Club today leaves a very sour taste in the mouth.
“FC St.Gallen 1879 makes it clear that it strongly condemns all forms of racism and discrimination. Such misconduct would be sanctioned immediately. Our players have a respectful relationship with each other regardless of origin, skin colour or religion. In a clarifying conversation with the managers, the player concerned credibly assured that he had also adhered to this club principle yesterday in the match against VfL Bochum.”
With respect, although precious little, I would suggest that taking the word of a player who unquestionably said something yesterday and quickly condoning his likely racism looks like a very hasty cover-up of what happened.
Thirdly, the standard absurd defence of the truly guilty. In response to a complaint from a German supporter St Gallen’s Twitter account assured us that,
“Where does the certainty that he is lying come from? Notabene are the player’s two best friends, two dark-skinned teammates.”
That’s all right then. Everybody believes that old chestnut.
The Arsenal have been quick to respond to reports of the incident. The club website – arsenal.com – carried the following statement today.
Last night Jordi Osei-Tutu received unacceptable racial abuse playing for VfL Bochum during a pre-season friendly match against Swiss club St Gallen.
We are working closely with Bochum and Jordi and we are giving him our full support.
Racism has no place in our game and we do not tolerate any form of discrimination.
Jordi, who is on a season long loan, said: “I am very disappointed about what happened.
“No one should ever be subject to any discrimination and it is really hard to understand how a fellow professional footballer could do this. Arsenal and Bochum have provided great support to me and I hope that if nothing else, we can show that racism has no place within football.”
I wonder what the attitude of UEFA, proud endorsers of the Kick Out Racism campaign in public, will be to this incident? What action will they take against a player who apparently practices racist acts, and against his club who undoubtedly have been seen to endorse such disgusting behaviour?
I won’t hold my breath.