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John Barnes: Racism is society’s problem not just sport’s

UNI TALK: John Barnes addresses racism in football and society

FORMER LIVERPOOL and England midfielder John Barnes has called on those who want to eradicate racism from sport not to be complacent and claimed the problem lies within wider society.

The Jamaican-born 50-year-old, who made 407 appearances for Liverpool between 1987 and 1997, was talking about racism in the game during a visit to Kingston University.

He told students: “From bananas being thrown on the pitch to overt racist chanting – just because we're not hearing it any more, the nature of racism hasn't changed.

“For 90 minutes people aren't allowed to say or do certain things, but that doesn't mean it's gone away. And the more we believe that it has, then the bigger the danger is.”

Barnes spoke about how racism is embedded within society and that is how it creeps over into sport.

He added: “If you look at what history has shown us for years – wrongly – it's that a certain group is intellectually and morally superior.

“I really want to change things and only through people understanding why they think and speak the way they do will that happen.”

Speaking about his own experiences of receiving racist abuse from the terraces while performing on the pitch, Barnes said: “I never had to bite my tongue.

“I came to England when I was 13 and people started racially abusing me on the pitch, but I didn't realise it was aimed at me, so I didn't pay attention.

“If people want to make monkey noises at me or throw bananas – I don't think I look like a monkey, and I know I'm not one, so it didn't affect me at all.”

The university’s sports development manager Jo Heath was pleased to have such a high-profile figure address students.

She added: “Having such inspirational figures come to talk to them and offer advice and insight based on their experience really contributes to our role helping them realise their goals.”

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