By Robson Sharuko
Just nine days after some Aston Villa thugs abused Marvelous Nakamba, his teammate, Tyrone Mings, suffered a similar fate in Bulgaria on Monday in an incident which could be the tipping point in football’s battle against racism.
Mings, a 26-year-old black footballer who chose England, rather than Barbados, for his international career, came under a shower of vile racist abuse, including monkey chants, on his debut for the Three Lions in Sofia.
Twice the Euro 2020 qualifier between England and Bulgaria was stopped, as part of the three-step UEFA protocol, before the Three Lions powered to a crushing 6-0 win over the hosts.
Mings was making his England debut, after impressing at Villa, a club he first joined from Bournemouth on loan in January this year before completing a permanent move in August, at the same time Nakamba was sealing his five-year move.
The dreadlocked defender bore the brunt of the abuse, and was the one who first alerted a fourth official of what was coming out of the stands, while Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford were also targeted.
Mings played the whole 90 minutes with Nakamba at Carrow Road on October 5, in a match Aston Villa won 5-1, before that win was marred by the emergence of a video of some of the club’s fans racially abusing the Zimbabwean.
Villa slammed the group which was caught on camera singing that Nakamba was a “rasta,’’ and his Scottish teammate, John McGinn was his “master,’’ in the kind of language which used to be prevalent during slavery.
The group also mocked Nakamba’s manhood.
However, there are many who now feel a line, in the fight against racism, has been crossed after Monday’s events triggered seismic reactions on a dramatic day in football yesterday where:
The president of the Bulgaria Football Union, Borislav Mihailov, a former national team goalkeeper who helped his country reach the World Cup semi-finals in 1994, was forced to resign, ending 14 years in charge of the game.
Mihailov’s resignation followed strong condemnation about the Bulgarian football leaders by the country’s Prime Minister, Boyko Borissov, who said it was “unacceptable that Bulgaria, one of the most tolerant countries in the world where people of different ethnicities live in peace, (had) to be associated with racism and xenophobia.”
Borissov had issued an ultimatum to Mihailov to hand in his resignation or the government would freeze all funding for football, and cut off all relations, with the Bulgaria Football Union, until a new leader was thrust into office.
A few hours after Mihailov’s resignation, Bulgarian special police forces raided the country’s football federation offices amid reports this was a crackdown on corruption.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin called on football to escalate the “war on the racists” saying they were “committed to doing everything (they) can to eliminate this disease from football.’’
A spokesman for British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, said “the racism we saw and heard last (Monday) night was vile and has no place in football or anywhere else.’’
The FA also released a statement saying “we can confirm that England players were subjected to abhorrent racist chanting while playing in the Euro 2020 qualifier against Bulgaria, this is unacceptable at any level of the game.’’
Ironically, the main target for the racist abuse, was central defender Mings, a teammate of Nakamba, who played alongside the Zimbabwean when the Warrior was racially abused in that victory over Norwich City.
Former Villa forward, Stan Collymore, warned it could happen to other players, including Mings.
“There was no intent to hide it or change the words to something else — they actively embrace three separate racist tropes in one song, in one 20-second sentence, knowing it is being recorded,” the former England forward, who is now a pundit, told the “Under A Gaslit Lamp’’ podcast.
“You would not have to search deep into some of these lads’ social media profiles to find memes, propaganda or even strong words that echo a far right-wing ethos.
“This is all the more relevant as we’re now a week into Black History Month. If the club didn’t say anything — it would have emboldened this growing little cell.”
“It wasn’t just the twenty or so at Norwich — I have been emailed a video from a season ticket holder from the Doug Ellis, towards the Holte — of a young boy. A lady sits in front of him and starts to sing the exact song.
“They’ve since asked to move to a different part of the stadium as they didn’t want to hear that. These lads were fully aware of what they were doing, despite information about equality, respect and boundaries widely available.
“I don’t buy that these lads, who look like they’re between the ages of thirteen and twenty-one, don’t understand the power of their words.
“What made fans sing about Marvelous?
“Those involved with these chants will say they’re fond of the player — but they’re using stereotypes to showcase that. If you were truly fond of the player, you’d sing something with no mention of race, or stereotypes.
“It’s almost like laughing at Dwight Yorke, Tyrone Mings, Tammy Abraham, Paul McGrath — people who have provided so much to the history of this club.”
On Monday night, just nine days after the incident at Carrow Road, Mings found himself in the firing line from the racists among the Bulgarian fans.
And, the gangly defender took to Twitter to express his pride, in making his England debut, and his disappointment in being targeted for racial abuse.
“I’ll always remember my debut as a moment where our country stood firm, stood tall and stood proud in the fight against discrimination . . . Oh and the football wasn’t too bad either,’’ he tweeted.
“Very proud moment for me and my family tonight to make my @England debut. The unfortunate incidents in the game were handled as well as possible & proud of how we handled it.’’ The Herald