There is an ongoing situation in the NFL relating to the Washington Redskins. The club are coming under increasing pressure in relation to their name and mascot, due to the fact that they portray culturally insensitive caricatures of the Native American community.
The club has had this identity since their formation in 1932 and some will fight for their club’s heritage, but times change and you do have to change with the times.
You may see where I’m going with this.
The fact that Reading are clutching their pearls, so offended by apparent anti-English chanting is on the one hand ridiculous. They’ve played Welsh sides before and should know the drill now. Cardiff and Swansea play English sides every week, when they’re not playing each other, and an us versus them mentality is woven in to the very fabrics of both clubs.
It doesn’t mean it’s right though and it also doesn’t mean that Reading don’t have a point. Of sorts.
Firstly, some semantics. We’re not talking racism here, we’re talking xenophobia, a fear or hatred of different countries and cultures. The club were quick to jump on this claim and I don’t blame them.
If you watch Cardiff regularly, chants such as ‘same old English, always cheating’ and ‘always shit on the English side of the bridge’ probably barely register. I’ve been going to Cardiff games all my adult life, but I listened to these songs with fresh ears when I started taking my son to games. I know it goes with the territory, but I do have conflicting feelings about him absorbing those messages.
I’m sure that some of the people singing those songs do have a genuine hatred of England. There is a lot of anger in the world after all, especially at the moment, but for many others, tongue is very much in cheek.
Many of these people will go home to families with English relatives and maybe commute to England the following day for work, which only emphasises how silly it all is really. Like how some Newcastle fans refuse to eat bacon because its red and white like Sunderland.
Due to his Swansea past, some Cardiff fans hated Andy Legg, until they loved him. Now he is one of their favourite sons. There is a degree of pantomime in football that you buy in to, but is a bit ridiculous when you really stop and think about it.
When I really think about the anti-English songs, I do find them a bit tiresome, which is a reflection of my politics I guess. It’s give and take though.
The reason Cardiff fans call themselves sheep-shaggers is because it was used against us for so long. They took control and adopted it, robbing it of its impact. It all very much works both ways, of course, which Reading would be wise to recognise. This is a club that had to publicly apologise to two of their own fans back in 2015, when they were ejected for swearing. They appear to be a club with a very sensitive moral compass.
These are conversations that are bound to happen eventually though. I remember a time, not so long ago, when some used to sing ‘we can see you holding hands’ to Brighton supporters, in relation to the area’s gay community. That is now accepted as no longer appropriate and one day, maybe sooner than you think, that maybe the case for anti-English and Welsh sentiment too.
Some will bemoan the game going soft and political correctness going mad, but people reserve the right to be offended and ultimately, you can’t really defend xenophobic chanting. You haven’t really got a leg to stand on.
It may give games a bit of bite, and over the years football has lost a lot of its edge, but it will surely be addressed and tackled eventually. Something like this may be how it starts.