Football racism: ‘Monkey chants aimed at children’

Youth footballersImage copyright Leicester Nirvana
Image caption Some children leave the pitch in tears due to abuse, said the BAME Football Forum

Footballers as young as seven have experienced racist abuse at matches, a new anti-discrimination group has said.

The Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Football Forum (BFF) has begun collating grassroots experiences of discrimination from across the country.

Vice chair Ahmed Maravia, who runs a club in Leicester, said “little kids” often heard monkey chants and Islamophobic remarks at games.

Leicestershire FA said discrimination did not belong in football.

Mr Maravia, the chief executive of the Community Football Academy, said some of his under-14s once left the pitch in tears, despite winning, because of abuse.

‘Just want to play’

He said his players, who were predominantly Muslim, had been called the “P-word” and told – by opposing footballers, managers and coaches – they should be “blowing things up, not playing football”.

Image caption Ahmed Maravia said some of the children did not understand Islamophobic remarks

He said among the abuse victims were children as young as seven.

“Racist and Islamophobic remarks have been made and some of [them] don’t understand, they’re just little kids,” he said.

“They just want to play football.”

He said he had also heard “monkey chants” at an under-nines game and told how a parent once offered a banana to a child, saying they “should be used to it”.

Mr Maravia said providing evidence to the FA could be difficult and asked why a report of discrimination was not enough.

“[Those committing the abuse] don’t do it in front of a match official,” he said.

“They’re not going to say ‘hey, referee, stop the game, I want to make a racist remark’.”

Image copyright BAME FF
Image caption Ivan Limbaud (left) with former Leicester City player Matt Piper (right)

The forum, believed to be the first of its kind in the country, was planned months before a match in April, between FC Wymeswold and Cosby United, was stopped when a player said he was racially abused by a spectator.

Ivan Limburd, the group’s chair, said he hoped a survey about discrimination in grassroots football would lead to change and better education.

Kelly Ellis, the chief executive of Leicestershire and Rutland FA, said it would engage with the clubs involved in the forum.

She said: “Leicestershire and Rutland County FA have always taken the stance that discrimination of any sort does not belong in football and investigate all allegations of discrimination in accordance with FA rules and procedures.”

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