Villa’s racists in the firing line

Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
THE shocking racist abuse of Zimbabwe international midfielder, Marvelous Nakamba, by a rowdy section of his Aston Villa fans continued to rage on yesterday, with anti-discrimination lobby Kick It Out condemning the offensive chants.

The 25-year-old, who has been one of Villa’s stand-out players since breaking into the first team, was targeted for racial abuse by a small section of the club’s fans during their 5-1 win over Norwich City at Carrow Road on Saturday.

It marred one of the finest days for Villa in the English Premiership, where they became the first promoted side to score five goals, away from home since Bolton Wanderers  at Leicester City in August 2001.

It also overshadowed another five-star performance from Nakamba, who for the third game running, won his club’s Twitter poll as the man-of-the-match, securing 70 percent of the vote, and finishing way clear of Jack Grealish (14 percent), double-scorer Wesley (13 percent) and Dutchman Anwar El Ghazi (3 percent).

Yesterday, Kick It Out, who have handled cases in which World Cup winner Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling and Romelo Lukaku in the last few months, were also racially abused, said there was no masking the offensive nature of the chants aimed at Nakamba.

“The chant is offensive and completely unacceptable,’’ they said on Twitter.

“Fans must understand that racist stereotypes have no place in football or wider society, and those involved should face consequences along with the necessary education.”

And, former Villa, Liverpool and England forward Stan Collymore continued to hit out at those who targeted Nakamba.

“There was no intent to hide it or change the words to something else,” he told the Villa blog ‘Under A Gaslit Lamp’.

“They actively embrace three separate racist tropes in one song.

“In one 20-second sentence, knowing it is being recorded.

“These lads were fully aware of what they were doing, despite information about equality, respect and boundaries widely available.

“I don’t buy that these lads, who look like they’re between the ages of 13 and 21, don’t understand the power of their words.

“The situation is not helped then by older generations hiding behind terms like ‘political correctness has gone mad’ and ‘snowflakes’ — if these chants and events aren’t challenged then it makes it seem like it’s OK.

“We’ve all f * * *d up. I’m not asking for the revoking of season tickets, arrests.

“These were young, hot-headed lads who thought that they were giving it the big gun.

“They need to accept that they were wrong and there’s creative ways to educate people going forward — I look forward to seeing what Aston Villa can do.’’

The Birmingham club issued a strong statement on Monday, condemning the abuse of one of their star players so far this season.

Nakamba arrived at Villa in August from Belgian club Club Brugge, and after a delayed start to his career at the club to boost his fitness levels, has been a success story in the Premiership.

He has also connected Villa to thousands, if not millions, of Zimbabwean football fans who have been following his every move and celebrating his fine performances on Twitter.

“Aston Villa is disgusted and appalled by footage circulating on social media of supporters chanting a racist song which makes reference to two of our first team players,’’ the club said.

“The club wholly condemns the chant and urges other supporters to help us identify those responsible.

“Chants of this nature besmirch the good name of Aston Villa Football Club and our fans. If the perpetrators are identified, they will be dealt with in the strongest manner by the club and be reported to the Police immediately.

“Our security staff will be vigilant at forthcoming games to ensure that anybody attempting repetition of this chant will be dealt with severely.

“We know we can rely on the assistance of the majority of our fans to eradicate this toxic behaviour immediately.”

Racism has been on the rise in the European football, and the English Premiership hasn’t been spared either, with many fans finding camouflage behind fake social media accounts to attack the black players.

Pogba and Rashford were abused by their own Manchester United fans after they missed penalties, while Lukaku, who moved to Inter Milan in the Italian Serie A from the Red Devils, was targeted by Cagliari fans as he took a penalty.

In July this year, Kick It Out chief Roisin Wood claimed statistics showed racism in English football had risen by 43 percent from the previous season, with 274 cases being reported.

He said part of it could be linked to the toxicity brought into the British society by the divisive issue of Brexit.

“I think you can’t not link them together,” Wood told BBC Sport.

“We’re seeing a lot of reports of ‘go back to where you came from’, which we haven’t seen for a while, which seems to be on the back of Brexit.

“If we’re seeing a rise in hate crime, the Home Office is seeing a rise in hate crime and other bodies are seeing a rise in hate crime, it’s linked because that’s what is going on in society at the moment.

“If it’s there, we’ll see it in football.

“In some of the cases we have seen, there is a real hatred there which we haven’t maybe seen as much of in the past where it’s really violent and very targeted, particularly on social media.

“Some of the social media reports we’ve seen you wouldn’t want anyone to see.

“We’re talking to people all the time that feel, post-Brexit, that ‘maybe this country isn’t for me’.

“(Politicians) have to take that responsibility very seriously, they are the leaders of the country and they need to set the tone. Society is reflected in football.”