Connecticut Students Attend London Soccer Match as Learning Opportunity

As seen on WNPR

By Aundréa Murray

I witnessed the eeriness of being one of the only black people watching the game.

A Connecticut journalism professor who took students to London, England allowed the group to attend a soccer match as an opportunity to examine racism, discrimination, and hooliganism at sporting events.

Dr. Vivian Martin, who directs CCSU’s journalism department, coordinated the trip with 15 students — two of whom were black — and two faculty members. Martin has been teaching a class on various aspects of British culture, and planned to take the group to a London soccer match as a potential learning experience.

Martin warned the black students in general to be aware during their trip in the wake of a racially discriminatory event in Paris.

The charged encounter allegedly took place before a Chelsea vs. Paris Saint-Germain soccer match. According to The New York Times, a black subway rider was shoved and prevented from boarding a crowded subway train, while Chelsea fans chanted, “We’re racist, we’re racist, and that’s the way we like it.”

The event was recorded on amateur video:

The man, named Souleymane, spoke with The Guardian three days later:

It seemed that they were Chelsea supporters. I didn’t even know Chelsea were playing that day. I tried to get on the train, I was pushed, and then they pushed me a second time. I still didn’t understand why they had pushed me. Then one of them, a young man, made a hand gesture … to show that it’s white skin here, black skin has no right to get on.

The incident caught the attention of Martin’s journalism students as they prepared to travel to London and attend a soccer match themselves.

Before attending the match, Martin cautioned her students to remain alert and observant about any potentially disruptive behavior, and to remain safe. For her two black students, she was especially concerned about safety and to be aware that they could be the target of discriminatory behavior.

Millwall versus Brighton at a match in London. CREDIT AUNDREA MURRAY / WNPR
Millwall versus Brighton at a match in London.
CREDIT: Aundrea Murray, WNPR
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A Chelsea fan holds up an anti-racism sign during soccer match. CREDIT: CFC News/Twitter

“Surprisingly, I really didn’t have anything racist happen to me there.” said CCSU student Inasia Woods. “I did notice, though, that most of the people working the [concession] stands were black. Most of the maintenance crew were black. It felt like we were the only black ‘fans’ there.”

I was there as well, and witnessed the eeriness of being one of the only black people watching the game.

When I asked a young black staff worker about the behavior at games, the woman mentioned that we “should definitely leave early.” She said that most of the outlandish hooliganism, if any, happens at the very end of a match when people are trying to get home.

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During a match in Lille, flares were set in the stands by football hooliganism supporters. CREDIT: Liondartois/Creative Commons

In a similar situation, The Washington Post reported that at a soccer match in the Netherlands between FC Utrecht and Ajax Amsterdam, chants against the Jewish community could be heard throughout the stands. According to the report, a section of fans from Amsterdam chanted, “My father was in the commandos; my mother was in the S.S.; together they burned Jews, because Jews burn the best.”

Public apologies have been made after these incidents, including a formal apology to the black man in the Paris Metro from French President Francois Hollande, The Daily News reported.

However, student Inasia Woods said she will always remember the anxiety of feeling isolated among what Britain has been known to call “the beautiful game.”

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