Tuesday, February 26, 2013

He's not sexist, but...

Snippets from a day's football news.

In England, semi-professional footballer Daniel Ailey calls the treatment of his deafness "the same as racism."

In Italy, Inter Milan are fined €50,000 after their fans directed racist chants at Mario Balotelli. Balotelli was himself fined €10,000 for gesturing to those same fans.

Elsewhere column inches are still being devoted to Robbie Rogers, the gay footballer who came out and then retired from the game.

Football, the people's game, remains as confused as ever about embracing all of the people.

Meanwhile in Scotland Gordon Parks took to the pages of the Daily Record to rage against the monstrous regiment.

Too much money is going to women and girls who want to play football and it's all because of the politically correct brigade and these daft modern ideas about equality, snarled sexism's unabashed proselytiser.

(Like a retired major from Tunbridge Wells who's cut loose on the G&Ts before heckling Shami Chakrabarti on Question Time, he did actually use the phrase "politically correct brigade.")

It's tempting but churlish to say that even in our discrimination Scottish football lags a decade or so behind more enlightened nations.

Gordon's war on equality might not stretch to people with disabilities, people with different skin colours or people with different sexual preferences. I don't know.

Chivalrously he only targets women. It would be nothing more than speculation to suggest that if you're against opening the game up to one section of society, you're hardly likely to take to the streets and rip down the barriers that football still throws in the way of any of the other sections of society that it sees fit to ignore or exclude.

£1.2 million, argues Gordon, spent by the SFA "and its partners" on women's football is a spectacular waste of money.

A theft actually. Daylight robbery of funds that would be better spent on grassroots football. Grassroots football for boys.

The consequences are plain for all to see. Letting women out of the kitchen and onto the pitch means Scotland will not play in a major men's finals again.

Stone me! So simple.

Never mind that, while £1.2 million would hardly wipe the nose of a mediocre SPL squad, it doesn't leave women's football in Scotland awash with cash.

Nor would £1.2 million put right the wrongs of an approach to the grassroots that has been cackhanded and blighted by short termism for too long.

What that £1.2 million can do, however, is build an ecosystem that attracts more diverse sections of our communities to the game.

It can encourage girls to play the game, build a love for the game that too many people are losing, it can support a senior women's game that can begin to make strides in catching up with countries that have already thrown off the shackles of sexism.

It can create role models that inspire more of our youngsters to get off their arses and do something as simple as chase a ball about a strip of land.

It can help make football a more attractive place for more people. It can help more people share in the fun and frustrations of the game. And it can create some decent players into the bargain.

£1.2 million is nowhere near enough.

We're in danger of becoming a nation that only takes sport seriously when we can moan about how bad a select group of grown men are at playing football.

The future has to lie in widening the audience for the game, putting clubs at the heart of their communities. Football for all.

"A ladies’ version of a game played in men’s shorts," moaned Gordon, choosing not to elaborate on what "men's games" are actually taking place in his own shorts.

Gordon Parks is clearly a dafty.

But we can't hide from the fact that sexism still exists in the game.

The same game where this weekend there was a very public return to chants about religion, where songs about this player or that player being gay roll from the terraces, where racism isn't yet dead, where sex crimes become a cause for gloating, where fans can take a death and turn it into a ditty to attack another team.

I don't know if I get a commission in the politically correct brigade for finding that wrong.

I do know that spouting sexist nonsense on the pages of a national paper makes you a whopping great part of the problem.

The only footballing World Cup winner in the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame is a woman.

Rose Reilly had to leave Scotland to achieve that. Gordon Parks - if he's ever heard of her - probably thinks that's exactly what she deserved.

Let's hope he increasingly finds himself in the minority.