In case you didn’t know, Sol Campbell has a book out. To that end, he has said in an interview he feels his three games as England captain would have been a whole lot more had he been white. Naturally, it has created a huge storm, and everyone involved with football has been forced to question whether Campbell was indeed marginalised because of his race?
It is too easy to dismiss Campbell as a bitter has-been lashing out in whatever way he can. It is so easy to look cynically at his comments as self-serving and promoting his book; the timing of them is no coincidence. Even so, it is disappointing that Campbell felt he had to wait until the launch of his autobiography to speak out about the issue.
The two-time Premier League winner’s claim that he could have been England captain for ten years is fanciful at best, lunacy at worst. Campbell was a very talented defender, few will argue with that. His 70 England caps and numerous major trophies speak to the fact. He even had experience as a captain, briefly at Tottenham and much later in his career at Portsmouth.
However, you would never look upon Campbell as a natural leader, as a man who could single-handedly drag his team through games as the great captains seem to be able to do: names like Shearer, Beckham, and Terry, the captains who mostly led the England teams containing Campbell, all spring to mind. There’s no way you would give the armband to Campbell over those men.
Sadly, Campbell is wrong. His three chances to wear the armband over an England shirt were about right, however, his sensationalist claims provide yet more ammunition for those who would defend football against those who ‘play the race card’.
Institutionalised racism is still a problem within football, if not within the Football Association specifically – a simple fact of the numbers. Black and ethnic minority people are significantly under-represented in the higher echelons of the game, both in clubs and in the FA.
There are a number of reasons for this, not least the hangover from the open racism of football clubs in the 1980s, which would refuse to sign black players, often branding them lazy, arrogant, and unfit. We are still in an era when people from that generation are involved in football clubs, often without the benefit of a re-education on their views of minorities.
Of course there are many other problems in football that lead to racism bubbling under, and sometimes above, the surface, but things are changing, slowly.
Racism is still a problem in English football, and it does need people to speak out about it. Although, Campbell’s ill-founded claims are not backed up by fact, that he feels his view is a reasonable says a lot about the way black players have been treated. We must not write him off as a book-seller, but we must also remember that three games as captain was no less than he deserved.