UK markets open in 1 hour 52 minutes
  • NIKKEI 225

    28,549.07
    -969.27 (-3.28%)
     
  • HANG SENG

    27,982.21
    -613.45 (-2.15%)
     
  • CRUDE OIL

    64.40
    -0.52 (-0.80%)
     
  • GOLD FUTURES

    1,836.50
    -1.10 (-0.06%)
     
  • DOW

    34,742.82
    -34.94 (-0.10%)
     
  • BTC-GBP

    39,123.20
    -3,149.43 (-7.45%)
     
  • CMC Crypto 200

    1,458.75
    -102.55 (-6.57%)
     
  • ^IXIC

    13,401.86
    -350.38 (-2.55%)
     
  • ^FTAS

    4,060.80
    -5.38 (-0.13%)
     

Anger and violence is the understandable reaction when racism rarely faces consequence

Vithushan Ehantharajah
·7-min read
Glen Kamara confronts Slavia Prague’s Ondrej Kudela (Getty)
Glen Kamara confronts Slavia Prague’s Ondrej Kudela (Getty)

There was one reason Rangers were waiting for Slavia Prague in the tunnel at Ibrox on Thursday 18 March.

They were not there to congratulate their opponents on a 2-0 win. They were not there to wish them well for the quarter-finals of the Europa League. Certainly not to share a beer after a match that descended into an on-field brawl.

Nor were they there to corroborate whether Slavia’s Ondrej Kudela leant into the ear of Glen Kamara simply to say “you’re a f***ing guy”. They knew then what they know now, of what was uttered and why it was said. Rangers were there to confront. Fundamentally, they were there to fight.

That was proved beyond doubt by Uefa. On Wednesday, they announced Kamara would be suspended for three matches for assaulting Kudela.

The same statement carried news of Kudela’s punishment: a 10-game suspension for racist behaviour, presumably because the governing body found him guilty of actually calling Kamara “a f*****g monkey”, despite his and Slavia Prague’s claims otherwise. It is worth noting a 10-game ban, of which one had already been served in the first leg of the Europa League quarter-final against Arsenal, is the minimum sanction Uefa could have applied.

Kamara’s lawyer Aamer Anwar said the player was left “disappointed”. He admonished the accused and his club for their conduct throughout: “Ondrej Kudela acted in a grotesque and racist manner, but his behaviour was compounded by his club Slavia Prague, who implied that my client Glen was a liar.”

Kudela maintains innocence, of course. He voiced his surprise that the Uefa disciplinary committee had come to a decision at odds with an investigator who he says assured him the case would fall his way. “There was no convincing evidence for the accusation of racism against me, which I continue to reject.”

It’s at this point that it is important to separate “shock” and “surprise”. Because while there is anger at the leniency of punishment and lack of contrition from the guilty party, Kamara, Rangers and anyone else who has been racially abused saw this coming.

There’s a moment after you’ve been racially abused that it hits you with an eery, ringing silence

Manager Steven Gerrard cited concerns that European football’s governing body would not deal with it effectively. Those sentiments were later echoed by defender Connor Goldson when he stated he felt “the representatives won’t do enough, they never do enough”. Kamara, the victim, regarded a failure to act appropriately on the matter would be viewed as “a green light for racism”.

Actually, it’s merely a continuation of the amber. Get through it if you can, but don’t worry yourself if you don’t quite make it before it turns red. No one’s going to pull you over - after all, you’re not the only one that does it. And the truth of that came to pass in the weeks that followed. Kamara and his teammates were subject to a greater tirade of racist abuse, so much that Rangers staff and players decided to boycott social media in protest.

Which brings us back to that Ibrox tunnel, those Rangers players and the reason they stuck around for 45 minutes waiting for a confrontation that never fully materialised. As unpalatable as it may be, they were there to extract their own form of justice knowing, deep down, “the right kind” would not be forthcoming.

Let’s walk out the merits of this “undue process” if you will.

There’s a moment after you’ve been racially abused that it hits you with an eery, ringing silence. A peculiar internal phenomenon takes hold – a sense of helplessness that belies the external anger that all can see. The kind you saw on Kamara’s face when Kudela’s words hit him.

Internally, though, there is a disturbing quiet, like your soul is gasping for breath as it drowns in the moment. As if the piece that keeps you afloat as a human being has been savagely torn away.

What follows is a visceral urge to give a bit back through violence and tear a piece off the perpetrator. Goldson admitted losing focus in the final minutes when the match restarted: “All I wanted to do was hurt someone”. While you can moralise over this form of retribution, trying to apply logic to such a situation is in itself an act of ignorance.

Because violence is rarely seen as an “eye for an eye” measure. Nor does it come with anything but fleeting satisfaction. And that satisfaction – the kind Rangers were angling for, and however much Kamara got – comes from knowing, deep down, the guilty party will usually walk free from any real consequence.

The most productive harnessing of this feeling has come as a collective force. Movements throughout history have relied on this binding agent of retaliation in the face of injustice. As Martin Luther King Jr put it in 1967, a riot is the language of the unheard, and it continues to be the strongest weapon for those punched down upon.

EPA
EPA

Its effectiveness during the pandemic has been inescapable, first through the Black Lives Matter movement re-energised after the death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis Police. Most recently in the United Kingdom, the Kill The Bill movement arose out of the death of Sarah Everard to stop proposed legislation to allow law enforcement bodies greater power to unduly clamp down on protests at their discretion.

On a macroscopic level, you may wonder what this has to do with football. But look closer and you will see even in the insulated world of the professional game, players are being pushed to an extreme.

Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha became the first Premier League player to stop taking the knee before the previous round of matches citing anger at a lack of change. “Whether we kneel or stand," he's said, "some of us still continue to receive abuse”. And it was telling in the case of Kamara that he put out a statement in the aftermath of the Slavia Prague incident through personal lawyers. The legislative equivalent of taking matters into his own hands.

More than one agent has told The Independent they fear some of their clients abused on social media may take things too far. For now, public shaming by way of screenshots has been encouraged to root out the problem, though a continued lack of action and support from social media companies and football authorities will lead some to seek justice by other means.

Right now, Rangers will be feeling that same anger. Kamara that same apoplexy and rage. And the only comfort he will have is that when he wanted to fight, his teammates were by his side willing to do the same.

They were there to fight because the institutions meant to protect them do anything but. And on Wednesday that lack of faith in “due” process revealed itself once more with the verdict handed down by Uefa.

The events of that Thursday night will never leave Kamara, forever hanging over his head more so than ever now it has been made to seem that he was also in the wrong. This will be another warning of the hassle that comes with reporting racist incidents.

Being in that tunnel around people who were willing to risk themselves and fight alongside Kamara will have been heartening, even if it was never going to be redemptive. The fire he and others feel is only growing more out of control each day. It won’t be long until that heat becomes too harsh to bear and the only thing to do is fight it themselves.