It was after an incident involving racist abuse during a game that Russell Sanderson, Club Development Secretary of Mossend Boys Club in Bellshill decided to confront the issue head on.
Mossend Boys Club has been in existence for half a century and is well regarded in the community. With a reputation for fair play and a philosophy that encourages equal opportunities, the club is open to school children from a variety of different areas, cultures, backgrounds and lifestyles.
To reinforce an ethos of multi-cultural aspirations within the club and to highlight there was no place in society or football for discrimination or intolerance of any kind, Russell invited Show Racism the Red Card to deliver a series of workshops for various age ranges over the last week, concluding on Friday 13th of June. These would equip the young players and coaches with the information to reject prejudiced attitudes, behaviours, and empower them to become responsible citizens in opposing racism.
Show Racism the Red Card in conjunction with the Scottish Football Partnership provides an engaging and positive two hour long programme which includes a coaching session then an interactive workshop activity aimed at encouraging young people to challenge racism.
Leading the sessions were two seasoned professionals, Derek Ferguson, ex Rangers, and Steven Bell the former Dundee United and Dunfermline player who now turns out for Stranraer.
For the first part of the session outdoors the children benefit from the expert coaching skills of both professionals who put them through their paces, with the resounding message that a good ‘attitude’ can get you far in progressing a football career.
During the hour long workshop the young players, split into small groups, are questioned about their perceptions and asked to match photographs with single word descriptions of each photograph. This led to many of the youngsters examining their own awareness with some surprising results, which then flowed smoothly into to a discussion about what racism is and the sorts of terms and descriptions that are unacceptable today in our multi-cultural society.
Derek and Steven gave a relaxed, highly informative and entertaining account of the issues surrounding racism in football today. Derek explained that attitudes and language were often passed on through generations within families but there was a great capacity within each and every one to change for the better and this was a very strong positive point he put across to everyone. Steven was skilful in extracting ideas from the boys which led onto fruitful avenues of discussion. What made the workshop all the more interesting were the vivid insights into the world of professional football that both players, with a strong dash of humour and honesty, openly shared with the Under 17’s. This was much appreciated by the attentive boys and their coaches.
As is always the case with committed and passionate professionals Derek and Steven went that extra mile and presented the team’s annual ‘Players of the Year’ trophies – a nice conclusion to an enjoyable evening.
As a venue the Sir Matt Busby Centre in Bellshill was vibrant with a variety of sporting activities taking place. Matt Busby, himself a son of Bellshill, would have been pleased to see the centre buzzing and he would have been very proud of Mossend Boys Club taking a lead in stamping out racism in football; he would also have been delighted to see two professional footballers putting something back into the game at grass roots level but most of all he’s probably, right now, keeping a sharp watchful eye out for any potential talent from the Under 17 squad that might do a turn for his old club. Derek Ferguson put it simply when he said, ‘it’s all to do with a good attitude’.
Any club wishing to engage with the services of Show Racism the Red Card can do so through Gillian Eunson, Education Worker, at www.theredcard.org