Why I’m Giving Up Hate & Launching The United Colours Of Football
By J.S. Leatherbarrow
Football connects us across borders. This is why I’m giving up hate.
We live in an uncertain age. More than in any other time in my 36 years of being on this planet, there is more division in Western society than I can ever remember. The tone and rhetoric of many politicians, much of the media and a large number of high profile people within our societies is divisive & hateful.
It stretches right across the political spectrum, as nuance is being drowned out in a sea of very loud, very vitriolic, hatred.
Social media helps to spread these voices quickly & gives them a larger platform than at any time in history. It affects football discussion too. We’ve reached a stage now where cruelty, being horrifically offensive & abuse has become normalised. Just yesterday I saw someone write:
“I hope he dies in a car crash” and then palm it off as “banter.” The day before that I saw someone - not once but multiple times - compare the Mourinho era at United as a “Nazi regime.”
This is not ok.
And then we get onto the racism, the sexism & the general intolerance. A blue tick gambling account called out Alex Scott for saying that Messi wouldn’t get into the current Manchester City team. This lead to a torrent of comments along the lines of “get back in the kitchen,” “shut up & look pretty” and “women know f*** all about football and shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the men’s game.”
The problem was that Alex Scott didn’t actually say that Messi wouldn’t make it into the Champions’ team. She asked if Pep Guardiola would have to change his entire system to fit the Argentine maestro. And if that was the case - would he? And this goes back to the lack of nuance. Using a deliberately out-of-context quote from a wider debate to generate hatred and leading to an open door forum for sexism is irresponsible to the point of being dangerous.
The death threats to Karius (and his family) after his Champions League final blunders last year, the racial abuse of Raheem Sterling, the “African expert” comments, the misogyny towards Rapinoe etc. etc. all point towards wider problems in our societies.
But football can help with this. And this is why I’m giving up hate.
I’ve pretty much run the Football And The City Twitter account by myself since day one. Although time pressures (and gratefully increased success of FATC,) mean that soon it will become harder to do so. We’ve generally developed a reputation for holding calm debates, being a hub for people to talk about football & never spreading salacious gossip. I do use it to call out injustice & lies in other media. But, this being said, even I find myself occasionally getting stuck into someone for holding (what I consider to be) a ridiculous opinion. I’ve argued with sexists, attacked racists - and this is morally fine - but not actually helpful.
And I am stopping this with immediate effect.
So how do we change the world for the better?
Well - we need to call out discrimination when it occurs. We absolutely do. But the way forward is by showing more kindness - not less.
So, in the coming months, Football And The City will be launching a new initiative called “United Colours Of Football.” Its sole aim is to help eliminate discrimination in football and in wider society. It will encourage reasoned debate, kindness & respect when disagreeing with someone & finding the positives in the universal game. It will aim to help show why discriminating against someone based on their race, religion, gender or sexual preference is both hurtful & wrong. It won’t attack people for holding these views - but aim to educate instead.
Players, clubs, coaches, journalists & governing bodies will all be involved.
For now you can make a change. Attack an argument - yes - but never attack the person. Help everyone to feel included and spread a little more joy.
Because football should be fun. It should be inclusive. And so should life.
It takes less effort to lift someone up than it does to pull them to the ground. Football stretches across borders - it connects us across borders. It is universal.
So let’s reach out to each other & celebrate our shared love. Let us no longer allow division to rule. We are better than this. We are better than those who seek to divide us.
Because it really is that easy to change the world.
Join the discussion using the hashtag #UCOF
Words by J.S. Leatherbarrow. Artwork by FATC staff. All rights reserved.