herald

Wednesday 20 November 2019

Heskey: FIFA are too soft on racism

Emile Heskey
Emile Heskey

Emile Heskey recalls hearing monkey chants when he played for England in places like Croatia, and has memories of being threatened in his native England as a kid, based on the colour of his skin.

And the former striker feels that talk of "educating" racists, such as the Bulgarian fans who racially abused England players in Sofia this week, or fining football federations, is a waste of time and energy.

"We could possibly go another ten years and just be talking about it. What action are we taking? None, really. I don't know why. We keep going back and saying it's an education thing," said Heskey on a recent visit to Dublin.

"When you are talking education, you are not going to see real progress from that for years to come. So, what do you do in the meantime? You have definitely got to ban people. You don't want them in your stadium. There has definitely got to be some sort of ban. But going forward, I'm not sure we have the will go actually stand up and do something.

"Racism is seen as less than disrespecting FIFA sponsors. You take off your shirt and you get a fine, 50 grand. If there is racism, it's 15 grand. You are bottom of the table anyway, bottom of the barrel when it comes to punishment," Heksey added, unsure if the idea of players staging a walk-out in response to racist behaviour is the answer.

"I don't know if you should walk off the pitch. That's your game, it's your passion, your love. Allowing them to take your passion and love away from you - get rid of them. Why do I have to stop playing? You go," he said.

Heskey suffered abuse at times during his 62-cap England career (1999-2010).

"As long as someone doesn't come on the pitch and attack me, I was fine with it. We went to Slovakia and we got it there, we went to Croatia and got it there - you'd get a full stadium doing monkey chants.

"I grew up in an era where you'd get racially abused on the street and stuff like that. So I kind of know how to deal with it. But now that I've kids, I don't want them to have to deal with the stuff I've had to deal with when it comes to racism. I would have been chased down the street by people and stuff like that.

"I was chased from Filbert Street as a 13-year-old. I was chased back into town. The ironic thing about that is that bloke, four years later, was calling my name from the stand."

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