Birmingham City striker Cameron Jerome has joined the war on racism in football and has branded as cowards supporters who abuse ethnic minority players.
Jerome joined children from schools across Birmingham at St Andrew’s this week to support the Kick It Out campaign and believes the FA and other clubs should never become complacent that the problem has been solved.
Racist incidents in England have certainly decreased since the Kick it Out campaign’s conception 15 years ago but the ugly spectre of racism in football reared its ugly head again recently when England’s Emile Heskey was racially abused during the World Cup qualifier in Croatia. The Croatian FA was fined less than £15,000 by Uefa, sparking outrage from Heskey’s England team-mate Rio Ferdinand.
Liverpool’s visit to Atletico Madrid on Wednesday in the Champions League had also been put into doubt after the La Liga club was found guilty of failing to control its crowd and racist incidents during a previous game, but Uefa eventually gave Atletico permission to play the fixture at their Vicente Calderon stadium.
Jerome said the issue was being addressed in this country but stated that more should be done in Europe to stamp out racism. “It is an important campaign,” he said. “It is something the clubs are working closely with the FA to do and it is something that needs doing. It is something we are all addressing and something I am proud to be involved in.
“I think it is the longest campaign going so that shows the success they are having with it. The problem isn’t as bad in our game as it was years ago and I think that is down to this campaign having an affect.
“We can’t drop our guard. Obviously in different countries they have different cultures and may not be as multicultural as in England. They don’t have ethnic minorities in places like Croatia so it is like stepping back in time. It is down to ignorance.
“It is not nice to see black players in the national team getting that kind of treatment, but it goes to show the cowardice of these people. I think the players who have been targeted have taken it on their shoulders and just got on with it.
“Emile Heskey was a target in Croatia but I think he only got stick because he was fantastic that day. I think players like Emile would take it as a back-handed compliment because he was brilliant in that game. The more he played well, the more it wound up the Croatia fans. He just got on with his job, was very professional and didn’t complain.
It was the FA who complained about it afterwards because they were defending him, but it is the type of player and person he is because he just gets on with it.
“He is very professional but shouldn’t have to go to those sorts of places and get stick.”