A SERIOUS allegation was made by a visiting football player at Anfield last night and as it should be it was taken seriously by the club and, vitally, the police.
The player in question, Oldham Athletic defender Tom Adeyemi, was visibly upset and angry at something that had happened towards the end of Liverpool’s 5-1 win over his side in last night’s third round tie in the Budweiser-sponsored cup. Looking at his reaction he certainly didn’t hold back from telling his team-mates, the referee and some of the Liverpool players what it was he thought he’d happened. He had to be comforted by his own team-mates and was also comforted by Liverpool players who were clearly trying to help him calm down.
By all accounts he’s as certain as he can be about what he heard and he is understood to have said what this was in a statement to Merseyside Police, namely that he was called “a black bastard” and “a black c***” by a fan on The Kop who was wearing a Luis Suárez T-shirt.
An unnamed person also told reporters they had heard one of the two insults. The Times quotes the witness as saying: “I was to the right of the Kop and the No 11 [Adeyemi] turned to walk away after a tackle. I heard a single voice shout ‘you f***ing black bastard’. He spun round with shock on his face and started pointing at the crowd from where the shout had come.”
Other witnesses confirmed that Adeyemi had been insulted but said that the insult they’d heard was “Manc bastard”.
The club issued a statement confirming that the incident was under investigation: “An incident occurred in the second half of the match which is now being investigated by both the club and the police. We will continue to work closely with the police to establish the details of what actually happened and will make a further statement in due course.”
It would take a very stupid person to say that there was no possibility of the player being mistaken, just like it would take a very stupid person to say there was no possibility of him being right. LFC and the police are trying to establish the facts; meanwhile the press and others are trying too hard to turn speculation into what they’d like the truth to be.
If one group of witness say the word in question was “black” and another group say “Manc” then clearly one group is wrong. Either group could be lying – but far more likely is that one group heard wrong. And let’s make it clear – that includes those who think it was ‘just’ “Manc bastard”.
The situation is heart-breaking. The 20-year-old lad in tears at what he thought he’d heard found it heart-breaking and so do the vast majority of Liverpool supporters. For Liverpool fans it’s heart-breaking to even be in a position of talking about this instead of celebrating a 5-1 win. And what adds to the heartbreak for Liverpool fans is that whatever the truth of the situation the whole Liverpool fanbase and the club it adores is effectively being branded as racist.
It’s heart-breaking to think that even wearing a Luis Suárez t-shirt, the way the story is being reported, is going to lead to individual supporters branded as racist.
Taking away the racial part of the allegation there are still questions to be asked about what was said. Liverpool were comfortably ahead against a team two divisions below it in the league. Oldham had played well and certainly can’t be described as dirty. Their goal wasn’t an old-fashioned FA Cup third round type of goal it was a screamer and part of the reason why Oldham could take so much pride from their performance. It had been a good night for both sides and a chance for Liverpool to put a difficult week and a difficult couple of months into the past and to move onto better times. So why was there a need to shout any abuse whatsoever at their player?
Whether he was a racist dickhead or just a dickhead he has put his foot into it big time and has a lot of explaining to do. If it was a racist remark then he won’t be welcome inside Anfield again. And if it was a group of dickheads the same applies to each of them.
The same should also apply to certain elements of the media who have continued to show their contempt for truth and did so in their reporting of last night’s incident. Too eager to go to press with something juicy they got key parts of their stories wrong and ruined the last shreds of their credibility.
If their outrage at what had been alleged was heartfelt they would have had a desire to report the truth. Instead their outrage was false and their desire was for something far from honest that does nothing but cause trouble.
And, it has to be said, that desire gets fed daily by the people who come out with stuff like “they must have been plants from [pick a club]”, or insist that someone must be lying before launching into unsubstantiated groundless abuse.
It’s time for people to start talking to each other instead of fighting. It’s time to stop accusing the wrong people of racism and time to find those who really are. It’s also time we dealt with those who use that – or other sensitive and objectionable situations – as a stick to beat their rivals with or as a means to a headline.
Whatever the outcome of this case Tom Adeyemi was upset at what he believed he’d heard and we need to make sure no player is ever left feeling like that in a game of football again.
All of us.