Volatile political mood emboldens soccer abuse, Ouseley says

The atmosphere at matches is not as toxic as 25 years ago, when Herman Ouseley laid the foundations for the Kick It Out organization, but abuse targeting players is increasingly moving from stands to the anonymity of the internet.

“People bring their prejudices into football,” Ouseley told The Associated Press, “because those prejudices are in society.”

“They are trying to infiltrate and get back into football in their own covert ways,” Ouseley said.

“What football then has to do is … (ensure) the chaos that exists now in politics and may well for some time doesn’t actually infect football in the way that it’s looking as though some people would like it to happen,” Ouseley said.

“It shows that football can move the dial in a way that is influential,” Ouseley said, “and push the politics back and out of football.”

BASKET CASE Born in Guyana, Ouseley moved to London at the age of 11 and dedicated his professional life to making Britain a more inclusive society, challenging public institutions plagued by racism.

A fan of London club Millwall, whose fans have a reputation for violence, Ouseley saw the need first-hand to turn his attentions to soccer in 1993.

“Twenty-five years ago football was a basket case with violence outside the grounds, inside the grounds,” Ouseley said.

“Historically owners of clubs felt the black players weren’t good enough to play football,” Ouseley said.

“We’ve got a situation now where some people feel that black coaches are not good enough,” Ouseley said.

It highlights the ever-evolving nature of Ouseley’s role leading Kick It Out, and the need for such an organization, which is marking its 25th anniversary.

“I’ve got a resilience that can deal with the prejudice and stereotypes and having experienced it virtually all my life and found ways to deal with it,” Ouseley said.

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