DISRESPECTFUL: Ex-NUFC stars on fans’ Arab-style dress
The Show Racism the Red Card event at Newcastle Civic Centre, Image: LDRS
Ex-Newcastle United stars Olivier Bernard and John Beresford have backed calls for Toon fans to stop wearing Arab-style clothing to matches.
Since the club’s Saudi Arabian-backed takeover earlier this month, a number of overjoyed supporters have been spotted wearing tea towels, other homemade headdresses, and robes as they celebrate the end of Mike Ashley’s reign at St James’ Park.
It prompted the club to ask NUFC fans to “refrain from wearing traditional Arabic clothing or Middle East-inspired head coverings”, saying there was “the possibility that dressing this way is culturally inappropriate and risks causing offence to others.”
Former players Beresford and Bernard, who were both at an event to mark Show Racism the Red Card’s Wear Red day of action at Newcastle Civic Centre, backed that message on Friday.
Former full back Bernard said that while the fanbase was “happy and hyper”, it was important to “understand and respect people’s feelings”.
The Frenchman added: “It was not done in a malicious way, it was just a celebration.
“But it was a little alarm bell to say that there are things that are not appropriate in our society.”
Beresford, who played for the club during the 1990s, agreed that supporters donning the Arab-style dress were “doing it for celebration and not realising it is disrespectful”.
He added that they “got it wrong” and “that is not the way to celebrate the takeover”, but that “once they have been educated they will be fine”.
The 55-year-old has previously admitted chanting racist abuse at black footballers as a teenager, but has since been awarded an MBE for his work with Show Racism the Red Card.
Bernard, who has also worked with the charity for more than a decade, spoke about the racism that he still faces in the North East.
He said: “I have suffered from racism in my time playing and since I have stopped. People tend to forget who I am now at times and you feel that racism, until then someone clicks and says ‘oh, he looks like Olivier Bernard’ and the attitude changes straight away.
“But at first you can feel it in the room, the silence when maybe I go into a restaurant that people think I shouldn’t be in because people have got their back up.
“Racism is still happening these days. I think the awareness is there more now and people realise that they cannot shout whatever they want on the terraces.
“But what you see is people staying silent during games, but then going online and starting the war.
“In whatever shape or form it is in, we need to combat it. Yes it is better than 20 or 25 years ago, definitely. But it doesn’t mean that it is eradicated and we need to make sure as individuals that if we see or feel it then we report it.”
Words: Daniel Holland, Local Democracy Reporter
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