Watford: A Step in the Right Direction
They are the only Premier League club to allow their players to talk and appear on a racism documentary.
The short film titled Shame in The Game: Racism in Football features interviews with Watford players Andre Gray, Tom Cleverley, and Troy Deeney, as well as new Watford Ladies signing Renee Hector. Former striker Marvin Sordell was also interviewed after he claimed that racism was the biggest factor that led to him ultimately retiring from the game at just 28 years old. At the end of the programme, a statement was shown where it said that all 20 Premier League clubs were approached and asked for permission to interview their players but only Watford agreed.
The players spoke about their individual experiences about racism, with a particular focus on the racist remarks and abuse they received after the FA Cup semi-final against the Wolves. They also talked about the club’s campaign that aims to tackle discriminatory behaviour. ‘All you're doing is living your dream, and qualifying for the final of the FA Cup’, said Gray. ‘People want to get bitter and think of ways to offend you and get in your head and, for some reason or not, that's the way they wanted to go about it. You get called everything under the sun, just things that you don't expect to see. Nothing got done about it. The police didn’t do anything, or the FA. People higher up didn't pay any attention to it. It's not the best place to be in’.
According to Cleverly, the events that took place opened their eyes to the ugly truth. He also said that the league’s success is due to its multiculturalism. ‘I think that was a big eye-opener for everyone of how direct and personal the abuse got’, he said. ‘We've got probably the most multicultural squad in the league and we took a stance together, which was the main thing. How many nationalities, skin colours are absolute megastars in this league? Without these players, the Premier League would be not even half the league it is’.
Hector, a member of Watford’s Ladies team who returned to the club, spoke about an incident separate from the FA Cup match. She said that she was racially abused during a key match when she was still playing for the Tottenham Hotspur Ladies and that it had a long-lasting effect on her mentality.
‘I just couldn't believe it because obviously we've never heard of an incident like that on the pitch in women's football’, she said. ‘I think the moment where it really sank in was when I went into the changing room and I was telling my team-mates, “I can't believe what just happened, the number eight just made monkey noises in my ear as I just went to head the ball” and I think at that point, that's when I started to feel anger and frustration and just really couldn't believe what had just happened. I got a bit animated and upset at half-time. There were times I went home from training and I'd just be crying on the way home and I didn't really leave my house. There was a week, my mum had to drag me out at one point just to go to Tesco’.
Other than players from Watford, the short documentary features other important people, both former and current, who have experienced similar treatments. It also asks for a stronger call to action so that racism can be avoided and eliminated from the league.
Words: Carlos Corpus