The recent allegations of institutional racism made by former Arsenal and England centre half Sol Campbell, make a gross disservice to the anti racism campaign.
Campbell is perfectly entitled to feel aggrieved about not being the regular England skipper for ten years if he wishes to. For that, in the opinion of this writer, Campbell a fine defender but his skills as a footballer did not necessarily make him captain material.
Whatever Campbell’s abilities, to accredit his none appointment of being regular England skipper to an indented racism at the Football Association is not only unfair on the FA but unfair on the campaign to eradicate racism.
Racism has been a major problem in the UK since the merchant vessel Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury docks in 1948, with 492 Jamaican immigrants. Tolerated casual racism reached it’s nadir or peak (depending on which way you chose to look at it) in the 1970’s. Television programmes like The Black and White Minstrel Show and Jim Davidson were considered acceptable mainstream popular entertainment in a way that would be inconceivable today. On the football field there was overt racism, particularly in the late 1970s which is not socially acceptable today.
Ultimately, Sol Campbell was never the England skipper due to the prerogative of the respective managers that England had between 1996/2006. Ian Wright believed that Campbell may have been overlooked as captain because of his placidity. Wright told the BBC that “Sol has never had the demeanour where he is aggressive on the pitch and put people in their place”. What is needed from a captain is skills of leadership, a man who has the respect though not neccesarily the affection of his team mates. A man who can be trusted when there is adversity for the team to stick around and fight for the cause.
Sol Campbell infamously left Highbury at half time during a match between Arsenal and West Ham in Ferbruary 2006. He had been culpable for two West Ham goals in the first half. It is incidents like this which are why Campbell was never regular England captain. To blame the none selection on racism, undermines dilutes the hard work and dilligent work done by anti racism campaigners, particularly since the late 1970’s.
Photograph of Gordon Brown with Sol Campbell, image by Downing Street via Creative Commons/License