Football as litmus paper for prejudice?

So did any of you see this story earlier?

It seems that comments by Tennis player Andy Murray have been taken to a T Shirt. In 2006, whilst being interviewed by a Daily Mail journalist (and I know that many of you might agree with me that those words may contain an inherent contradiction) Murray got himself in trouble as follows-

So, for the hard of thinking, let me state here that: I did the interview with Andy Murray and Tim Henman a couple of years back where Murray talked about ‘supporting whoever England were playing against’.

It was a clearly a sarcastic remark. He was responding to teasing from your columnist about Scotland’s absence from the 2006 World Cup and derisive laughter from the mischievous Henman.

It was reported in that context in this newspaper at the time and the exchange was run as a transcript.

A couple of days later a red-top got excited about the comments, lifted a couple of them into a ‘story’ that took on a life of its own and from there the truth was lost.

But the story has carried on.

The latest incarnation of this can be seen in the sale of these T-shirts-

These shirts are being sold as Football World Cup shirts. ABE stands of course, for ‘Anyone But England.’

The perhaps overly zealous policeman who reacted to the shirts appeared to have some concern that the shirts might foster and encourage racism- which is of course an offence.

At very least it appears to tap into wider popular prejudice and division between our neighbouring countries. Football has this way of being a conduit for all sorts of prejudice and base emotions- it is like a kind of religion without a moral code sometimes.

I know my own reaction to this- which is that I find this narrow sectarian stuff very depressing. I do not often feel the heat of prejudice personally, despite living in Scotland and having an English accent (although someone did call me a ‘white settle’r today- albeit with a smile.) I just think that most of us should just know better. The fostering and celebration of narrow judgemental views is never really victimless- there are always vulnerable people who suffer, if only kids in the playground. There is also the fear in me that these fires, once lit, might become conflagrations- if not in our generation, then perhaps in the next…

So- what do you think?

5 thoughts on “Football as litmus paper for prejudice?

  1. Unfortunately I think the T-Shirt is not ‘sectarian’ or racist… and completely in line with the ‘English’ attitude toward the French…:) which is broadcast very frequently over the british isles… and this ABE is pretty harmless, compared to what can happen on the terraces this weekend

  2. HI Alistair

    English attitude towards the French? Sure, there is a section of the gutter press that might have a go at the ‘frogs’ or all things European. But do not kid yourself this is the same as the Scotland-England things- that are fostered by politicians, and celebrated by otherwise intelligent and deep thinking folk.

    Football gives an excuse for all sorts of sectarian things (as mentioned in my post) but can we say that the dreadful tribalism associated with the Rangers-Celtic stuff is unacceptable, but this is OK?


  3. Pingback: t-shirt football | T-Shirt Ideas

  4. Hi Chris

    I thought of your post at the end of Question Time on Thursday evening. Did you see it?

    An audience member asked a question about the John Terry/Wayne Bridge scenario and it’s impact on the England team.

    The question was given short shrift from most of the audience….many of whom were willing to express their preference for ABE.

    This week’s QT came from Cardiff! 😉

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