Playing+the+Race+Game+inside+Football

Playing+the+Race+Game+inside+Football - Leisure Studies i...

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Unformatted text preview: Leisure Studies. i Routledge Vol. 23. No. I. 19—30.. Jattttttrt' 2004 m ”MW" Race and Cultural Identity: Playing the Race Game Inside Football COLIN KING Lt'Jttt'hll't. UK Ans'rr-tmrt The first part of this pttpcr exphn’es the biographical and ut'tttlt'tttt't' attention white writers hare given to the black athlete. There is an errttttittutt'utt of the links between how sport and rave have been interpreted in relation to the him-k body. and hour this has led to tttttht'guotts assumptions «than: the capacity of l-Ilttt'll' jittttt'hes to enable black players to urh‘ttst to English .t'ot'iety. The paper shows how F mum '5 How; Lillpftiifl‘jl to identity and rare. combined with ideas about perflirmmn'e- and drtmuttmjay (thfltmn [956). form a tlteurett'ettl framework rolled 'rttet'tthzed pt't‘jiu'tttttttt'e' thttt flu‘ttses on the pressure to perfin'ttt to white ttttrst'itline standouts and values. Through a series (feast! studies. there is an interpretation of the ways that bhtek phtt'ers tttlh tthottt their arrival into English sut't'er ctnrl’ the types of privileges and routines that have been developed by white men in their absence. The th'seunrse of hhtek players reveals the types of t'ttt‘htsimt and e.rt‘htshm that operate through the processes of t'htss. rm'e. llldfl'fllliflft')" and sexuality. through a number of rehttionships with it'ht’te men. he that in the trend. ht the playing field. ur‘ in the changing ruuttt. White Talk and the Mythologies of Race A number of themes have developed in the genre of ‘white talk‘ sports literature that have 'pathologizcd’ black sportsmen via a biological obsession with the black male body. Kane (I973) infamously asserted that by surviving slavery black men became physically stronger and thus suited to pe-rt'onnzmce on the lield ol play. Such ideas legitimatcd notions oi racial biology' and reinforced a culture of racism that separates the functions of the black body and the black mind. constructing the black mule athlete as a distinct racial category. More recently Entine (2000') has argued that black men are naturally superior athletes, evidenced by their successes in recent Olympics games. The implications of failing to understand the socially constructed nature of ‘the black male body’ has led to a fecusing on black men as intellectually and culturally problematic. For example. the work of Cashmere (I982) presents a negative ideal type of black family life in which black families in Britain are ‘unsupportive‘. which leads to black children being 'culturally disadvantaged’. The school and spun systems then compensate for the limitations of black family life: Corn-spinal:um1- Admin-tar Colin King. ll? Sudl‘murnc Road. London SW: SAF. UK. Email: [email protected] kingdcrnuhcuuk 0161-4307 Prlnlfl-lhh-44Uft [)nlinct’ll-‘Ulllll'lll‘lill 31‘ EMU-l Taylor 3:. Francis Ltd DUI: ttt.ItixtttuZfi1436042ttun182290 20 C. King 11 is tempting to see the source of black kids' sporting involvement and success as the family. A rough-hewn psychological explanation would hold that. because second generation Caribbeans and Africans in the UK are raised in single-parent families. in almost every case the parent being the mother. the children pass into an emotional void at the ages of [3 or l4 and seek out father figures in the shape of sports coaches with whom they form compensatory attachments. (Cashmere. 1982. p. 79') Cashmere thus portrays the black family as matriarchal. lacking a positive male identity, and neglecting the psychological needs of young black children in the context of English society. He essentializes the black family as having a ‘deviant' cultural pathology. enabling him to diagnose sport as a central life interest, where black men find meaningful identity. in terms of this ideology of race and intelligence. Bruce Carrington ”986) follows a similar 'deficit model’ of black family life. through comparative studies of black and white pupils and their relationship to school and sport. He concludes that. for black children. sporting achievement compensates for academic failure. resulting from racism within the school system. Sport becomes a mechanism to elicit good behaviour from black men. which they then colonize as an ‘ethnic territory and are consequently seen to have a one. dimensional and singular form of worth which can only be valued. through sport. Research has shown that black sportsmen are often framed through their physicality. being positioned and ‘stacked‘ because of their ‘racial attributes‘ into specific positions on the sports field such as wing or centre forward positions in football (Merrill and Mcln-ick. 1988). Maguit‘e (199D found similar patterns in his smaller comparative study of the positioning of black football players in both the English and European Leagues over a four-season period. This evidence suggests that white coaches conclude that the black body is disconnected from forms of intelligence and decision making, and can only operate through the use of natural speed and physical strength. This continuum between biological notions of race and political and ideological assumptions continues within the {white} biographical football literature. within which black men are seen as strange and signalling something 'mysteriously different‘; a disquieting newness in integrating into the English game. Woolnough‘s (1983) notion of ‘black magic‘ signified black players as having special mythical qualities. which set them apart from their white working—class colleagues. Glanvill {1996) talks about [an Wright as a problematic young black man. having a dysfunctional. childhood. who is ‘normalized' by obtaining citizenship within the white working—class masculine codes of soccer. Thus soccer is placed as having an important role in ‘civilizing‘ the misplaced black man. This theme of sport ‘civilizing" the black soccer player is seen in a more culturally specific way in Dave Hill‘s (1989) analysis of John Barnes. Hill-l l989) attempts to more clearly place the issues of“ race within a political context by using Barnes" experiences to explore the pressures black players confront in an industry which shapes their identity by demanding that they ‘play the white man' on white men‘s terms. The autobiographical texts of white players and white managers have paid little attention- to the politics of race and racism in their relationships with black Rot-c and Cultural Identity 21 players. When they do speak about the issues of race it is often contradictory. For example. Ron Atkinson‘s (1998] reference to the change in attitude in the second generation of black players. who think that ‘life owes them a living' and Brian Clough's tl994) perception of Justin Fashanu as a diflicult‘ confused. "black poof" tp. 34). reveals how black players are accepted when they are subservient and do not break the homophobic codes that hold men together across colour. Comparatively the autobiographical texts of black players have not offered sufficient evidence to. these hidden ideological. political and cultural forms of racism that operate inside the institutions of soccer. Ruud Gullit's (1997) refusal to neune himself as black. adopting the identity of the ‘overseas coach'. reveals the pressures placed on black men to disguise their experiences of racism in the game. On the other hand. Les Ferdinand {1997) and Andrew Cole “999) make a more concrete link to racism through the perception of black players as having “a chip on their sh'oulder‘. revealing how this metaphor relates to the politics of the black body and positions black players as difficult to control. John Bames (1999) attempts to link the pathologizing of the black soccer player to wider social processes in society by voicing a change from the overt racist culture of white football crowds. to a more covert form of racial exclusion in management. When issues of race and identity in the context of soccer have been more directly explored by white academic writers. the link has rarely been made between the experiences of black players and how cultures of racism operate inside soccer. The literature on racism has been primarily concerned with issues of fan behaviour t for example see Williams. 199l and 1994). Unfortunately, the pattern in sports. literature. both academic and biographical. has been to analyze racism as only having one market that can be seen in the overt behaviour that takes place on the field or in the stadium. The aversion to exploring how white men perceive blackness. and the political and ideological assumptions that derive from this, distracts from seeing how the perforated culture of white masculinity is normalized and taken for granted. For example, l-lohennan t 1997) suggests that the 'athleticising of the black mind' leads the black sportsman to internalize this position on the field. but Hobcrtnan does not examine how fomis of whiteness. both in literature and in practice. operate as modes of discrimination that shape the experiences of black sportsmen. Black Writers Strike Back Alternative approaches that may help us to understand the relationships between black men and white coaches. managers and spectators have emerged from the work of black writers. The political tensions between race and nationality. between blackness and Englishness. between competence and tilting in. are articulated by looking at how black players reconcile how they look. think and act and how they are accepted into the English game.‘ Paul Gilroy's (1993) idea of double consciousness. adapted from the work of Du Bois (1903!. is useful in exploring how black people see their identity in moving from Africa and the Caribbean into the context of English society. 22 C'. King There are different levels of consciousness in the way black players relate to their racial and gendered identities in the spheres of English soccer. These processes of race consciousness can be understood more specifically through Frantz Fanon's work (196?). which sees black men developing their identity and their place .in the social world through their relationships with white men. This theory of identity formation is useful in the context of soccer. when black men relate to white men and adjust to the stereotypes made in relation to their body and the cultural changes needed to fit in. Fanon ( l96-7) illustrates the pressures placed on black men to survive in a ‘whitc world’. which is also pertinent to the complex and contradictory world of soccer: Not only must the black man be black. he must be black in relation to the white man. In the white world the man of colour encounters powers in his bodily schema. consciousness of his body is solely a negative activity. It is a third—person consciousness. The body is surrounded by an atmosphere of certain uncertainty. He discovered his blackness. his ethnic characteristics. battered down by torn—toms. cannibalism. intellectual deficiency. fetishism. racial defects. slave ships. (Patton. 196?. p. 112) Fanon (196'!) sees that acceptance by the white mart is determined by the black man's ability to assume ‘the other's' culture and language- to adopt the white man‘s standards of behaviour and speech through the use of the white ‘mask‘. The metaphor of the 'mask' is both a public performance and an internal mechanism to survive the pressures of being essentialized simply as a black player. Race and culture take on a multi—dimensional form in football. in the ways individuals make sense of their history. their lives and their social relationships. For this reason the possibility exists to manipulate the pressure to act on the terms of white men and notions. of malcness through the use of parody. There is now an examination of the responses and strategies needed to survive racism inside of soccer. in ‘playing the white man’, as a complicated and multi-t‘accted mechanism used by black players. The Significance of Black Players in English Soccer in the [9805 According to Vasili (1998; see also 2000) black players represented 4% ol" the playing staff of league football in the 1970s. increasing to 25% in the [980s and declining to [5% at the end of the l990s. The routes and conditions by which black players entered the game provide indicators of the new and changing types of racism that they encountered. in temis of their entry. most black players tended to have played for a school or a non-league team. being scouted and offered atrial resulting in an offer of an apprenticeship (now the Youth Training Scheme). The psychological impact of their entry can be detected by how black players rationalized their experiences. In this interview, in his home in Leeds. Colin Parker talked about his life as a child coating into the English game. He was born in St Kim; and came to England at the age of nine from a close knit family. His was one of the few black families who lived in the area at the time. He talked of a sense of being overwhelmed as the only black player during a trial at Wolverhampton Football Club: Race and Cultural Identity 23 At Wolves a scout asked me to go for a trial and l was the only black kid and it was the first Lime I' felt discriminated against . . . l was the only kid that didn‘t get a kick of the ball. (Colin Parker. interview 1997) For Colin. the isolation of being the only ‘hlac-k child' seems expressed by not getting a kick of the ball as his first subjective experience of being excluded. This produces a link between his tw0 worlds: inside football. as being different on the premise of his different skin colour; reaffirming his external world. as one of the few black families in the area. The contrast between how Colin rationalizes his experiences of a system as a black person compared to Brendon Batson. underlines that black players make sense of the same experiences, i.e.. coming into the English game. in different ways. Brendon came to England from St Lucia at the age of 10. He accepted that being the only black player was a normal part of playing in English Football: I didn‘t put a great deal on it. as many players would tell you of that era. Coming through the youth team we were usually the only black players: there were no other black players at Arsenal and l was the only black player at Cambridge. Other people put more on the fact we were black players than black players themselves. (Brendon Batson. interview 1997) Brendon shows he has to normalize being the only black player to be effective inside of football. Although he may not look like a white man. he can still be accepted without making this an issue. These two responses show that the experiences of being black and different are not always the same. Rather. they are determined by the subjectivity of the black player in adapting to the scouting. coaching and management structures of English soccer. This process of subjectivity and consciousness, in relation to the importance of one's skin colour, is influenced by the ways that the second generation of black players born in England confronted the barriers to their acceptance as black English players. This acceptance will partially be determined by how they reconcile with their parents' experiences of racism in English society. The process of belonging and understanding racism in football thus starts from within the black family. The following interview with a black player. in his office in a sports centre in South London. illttstrates the fears that black families had for their sons in English football. Frank was bom in south London whilst both parents were born in Jamaica. He talked about the difficulties facing his family. the lack of jobs and the way his mother feared for his safety in going into a profession where there were very few black people: My parents didn't want me to go into soccer because they felt that black players weren't treated right at that time. My mother had to do the mothering and the t'atlterittg. and she might have to pick up the pieces. there wasn‘t a father around. (Frank Lee, interview 1997}. Black families had an important role in translating turd almost preemptin'g how racism was understood by black players. by articulating a fear that their sons 24 C‘. King would be racially abused in football stadiums. This fear was made more real in his example by the absence of a father figure to protect this black player. The temptation here is to follow the sociological trend of pathologizing the black family (Cashmere. 1982). which potentially invalidates their experiences of racism in English soccer and the forms of black masculinity developed in order to survive, instead of examining the specifics of their individual experiences. For black families. football was not a viable career as it was deemed to be formed in a completely different tradition. The lack of insight into football as an industry with proper jobs leads to a dilemma and a test of loyalty to the cultural demands of a black player's family against following a career and a new culture inside of football. as Darren Smith noted: My dad was always big up on having a trade: my brother said you have got to have a trade. All I wanted to do was to play football. but they didn't take it seriously. because there weren't a lot of black players playing football. And my older brother looked at me and said why do you wont to play football for. that "s a white man‘s game? (Darren Smith, interview 1997') The theme that resonates from this comment is the perception of football as a place where black players were entering a space they saw as white. Black families appear to perceive football as a naturalized. masculine space for white men that black players were not supposed to enter. certainly in the period of the l980s. It is important to look at the features of whiteness that create this rejection in black families in relation to their sons entering a profession of which they had little experience of the codes and customs. One of the reasons for the low status given to a career in soccer by black families may be related to it being a territory in which. subliminally. the concept of the black male body has travelled from the period of slavery and has been valued primarily for its physical. prowess. Kovel (I988) describes a dominant form of racism that existed during slavery with large numbers of black slaves situated in the American south who were in direct contact with an open, expressive type of physical and verbal abuse. The black male body was brutalized through the rituals of hanging and lynching. Kovel (1988) illustrates the way the black male body became objectified during the period of slavery: The American slave owner went one step further in cultural development: he first reduced the human side of the black slave to a body and reduced the body to a thing: he dehumanized the slave. made hint quantifiable and therefore absorbed him into a rising world of markets of productive exchange. tKovel. l988. p.18) The ideological shift I want to note here is the way that the black male body is similarly categorized in soccer. and how this may contribute to the fears of black families that football was a dangerous place’ for black masculinity. The English game during the [0805 became a location where a similar objectification of the black male body was emerging, because of the large explosion of black players. As David Boyce noted: Rare and Cultural Identify 25 'I think there was a perception that we couldn‘t think. we couldn’t read the game. but surely we have turned that around. with players like Paul Rose and Darren Smith. They can now see it‘s not just about speed. skill and. strength. When i first started playing the cliche was that they were not disciplined. and all they wanted to do was run and go out dancing and to go to a night club and anytime they told you anything they put it down to having a ‘chip on your shoulder'. {David Boyce. interview I997) The type of perceptions that black players highlight during the ...
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