In his essay the Decaying of Life, Oscar Wilde coined the now famous phrase “life imitates art far more than art imitates life”.
While Wilde’s work is now well over 100 years old, the words still have resonance today. Especially in the context of football.
While the rest of the world has to comply with rules, norms and all manner of social conventions, football has become stuck in pre 1970s era where foreigners are treated with suspicion and racial slurs are still considered banter.
Football operates on a plane where banana throwing and monkey chants do not carry the stigma they would off the pitch. It would be considered, and rightly so, absurd if some of the things said at football matches were done in everyday life.
And while the Suarez/Evra affair left a bad taste in the mouth, perhaps more worrying is the rise of incident, and alleged incidents both on the pitch, and off the pitch, since the Uruguayan was slapped with an eight match ban.
A few weeks a, footballer Mark McCammon vowed to bring a race discrimination claim against his former club Gillingham, alleging that the teams black players and white players were treated differently.
He told the Sunday Telegraph: “I’m hopeful that truth will prevail.”
Today, Russian football club Anzhi Makhachkala claimed that opposition supporters threw a banana at defender Christopher Samba, urging Lokomotiv Moscow to identify to fan responsible.
Samba said: “I try not to think about racism. I just want to believe that such problems do not exist on a global basis. Maybe I am mistaken but I do want to believe in it.”
However, more in line with the words of Wilde, is how actions on the pitch are affecting behaviour of the wider general public.
It would be crazy to insist that perfectly sane and rational people are turning into bigots because they idolise footballers . However, it may have legitimised inappropriate behaviour.
I myself, watching the recent Everton v Spurs games in a pub, heard a fan standing next to me refer to Fellaini as wog (he even turned and spotted me at the bar and there wasn’t even a hint of guilt in his eyes).
Also worrying is the treatment of footballers on Twitter, with Stan Collymore and the stricken Fabrice Muamba perhaps two of the more shocking examples.
Liam Stacey was arrested this morning after offensive and racial comments about Fabrice Muamba were posted on Twitter.
Stacey told police: “I was at the bar when I heard what had happened to Muamba.
I don’t know why I posted it. I’m not racist and some of my friends are from different cultural backgrounds.
Funnliy enough, his words are strikingly similar to those of Liverpool in their defence of Suarez
A statement from the club said: “He has played with black players and mixed with their families whilst with the Uruguay national side and was captain at Ajax Amsterdam of a team with a proud multi-cultural profile, many of whom became good friends.”