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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Don’t let racists melt away in the crowd, says chaplain

The Chaplain for Sport has insisted that more needs to be done to identify and prevent individuals displaying racist behaviour at sporting events.

Mgr Vladimir Felzmann stressed that those who take part in racially motivated abuse at sporting events should not be able to hide in the crowds.

“Crowd-anonymity enables racists who feel threatened by ‘others’ to express their twisted gut reactions,” he told The Universe. “Perhaps more cameras, more face-recognition and identification of ring-leaders who would be excluded from attending games might do the trick.”

Mgr Felzmann, who is also CEO of the John Paul II Foundation for Sport, also suggested ways to prevent supporters from engaging in racist behaviour.

“Were white footballers to make it clear that they see racism as bad as homophobia and thus something to be a part of the past not the present, these role-models and heroes might persuade at least some of the racists of the errors of their ways,” he said.

His calls came following reports that the Football Association (FA) was to investigate allegations that Millwall supporters directed racist chants at Tottenham forward Son Heung-min during last Sunday’s FA Cup quarterfinal.

Millwall fans were heard chanting ‘DVD’ and ‘You’re selling three for a fiver’ at Son, thought to be in reference to the racist stereotype of traders selling bootleg copies of films.

Son delivered a fitting response by scoring a hat trick as Spurs hammered their League One opponents 6-0. Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli and Vincent Janssen were also on target.

Millwall manager Neil Harris said after the match he had not been aware of the chants but accepted that, if proved, they would represent a blot on his side’s excellent run in the competition.

“I didn’t hear anything, but the club, we won’t condone that,” Harris said.

Noting that such chants had taken away the focus from what his team had achieved in the competition, Harris added: “It’s wrong in society and it’s wrong in football.”

Much of the talk in the build-up to the contest surrounded security and there was a heavy police presence outside White Hart Lane before kick-off.

More than a dozen police vans lined Tottenham High Road at the front of the stadium and supporters of both teams had to be separated following skirmishes while bangers, flares and bottles were thrown.

The Metropolitan Police confirmed two people were arrested and charged with public order act offences.

Meanwhile, Mgr Felzmann also stressed that the Government had its own part to play in preventing some of the racist behaviour.

“The underlying aetiology of racism – for many the prioritising of housing for immigrants which upsets so many in East London – needs to be recognised,” he said.

“Serious investment by Sadiq Khan and his merry men in affordable housing would help lower the pressures on older people in south east London turning to racism as a vent for their anger with what they see as injustice.”

This weekend’s Premier League fixtures:

Saturday 18th March

West Bromwich Albion v Arsenal – 12:30pm
Crystal Palace v Watford – 3:00pm
Everton v Hull City – 3:00pm
Stoke City v Chelsea – 3:00pm
Sunderland v Burnley – 3:00pm
West Ham United v Leicester City – 3:00pm
Bournemouth v Swansea City – 5:30pm

Sunday 19th March

Middlesbrough v Manchester United – 12:00pm
Tottenham Hotspur v Southampton – 2:15pm
Manchester City v Liverpool – 4:30pm

Picture: Police channel Millwall fans prior to the Spurs v Millwall, Emirates FA Cup quarterfinal at White Hart Lane, Tottenham.