Chelsea in racial row over Twitter abuse
Yet again the 'racist' tag is being applied to Chelsea and its fans after John Mikel Obi was subjected to Twitter abuse – but how fair is that tag?
September 24th, 2012
After John Terry was tried for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand (and cleared by the court – a point conveniently ignored by some), last Thursday’s incident with Mikel played into the hands of those who like to see the club and its support as some sort of anti-social ogre.
The midfielder was one of those to blame for Juventus’ equaliser in the previous evening’s Champions League match at Stamford Bridge. He admitted fault, and apologised.
There followed on social media a lot of moaning about his performance in general (a common theme among many Chelsea fans), and quite a few comments that he wasn’t good enough to play for the club.
I can’t say that I agree with these comments, but it is a free country and football is something we love to debate.
Criticism is one thing, but then followed the abuse. People tweeting Mikel to tell him they hope he dies. And some pretty foul racist stuff too.
As it happens he saw none of it, as he had already decided Twitter wasn’t for him and closed his account.
People were rightly shocked: Chelsea reported the racist content to the police, and said they would take the strongest possible action against anyone caught.
And the latest foul abuse from Chelsea ‘fans’ was reported, along with a back story including death threats towards referees Anders Frisk and Tom Henning Ovebro.
But who are these Chelsea ‘fans’?
A quick bit of Twitter detective work reveals that the vast majority of unpleasantness towards the Nigerian came from… Nigeria. People abusing one of their own.
A friend from Lagos told me this was typical of a minority of people who are very bitter about his success.
Please don’t take this as an attack on Nigerians: Chelsea have a massive following of committed fans over there, and I know the club is proud to be the best supported team in Nigeria. The vast majority of Nigerian Chelsea fans would never attack a player in this way.
But my point is that it is not fair to lambast match-going Chelsea fans on the basis of abuse coming from keyboard warriors on a different continent.
How about the racist stuff: that surely didn’t come from Nigeria too, did it?
I’ve seen the two racist tweets that I understand were reported to police. One is from the USA, the other is from an apparently UK-based 17-year-old of mixed race who has seemingly never been to a match.
Whether directed at opposition players, or those from your own club, this sort of abuse is just wrong: it has no place in football, and those behind it need to know they’re not welcome.
But equally those who point the finger need to be sure, when criticising the fanbase of an entire club, that they are pointing it in the right place.