Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category

Racism is something that injures us all. Whether you’re a victim of racism, you witness its evil, or whether you’re the villain remaining in a state of ignorance; racism hurts us all in some way.

Undoubtedly things are better for this generation; words like diversity and multiculturalism are everywhere. The convictions yesterday of Gary Dobson and David Norris for the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence showed a step towards a more just world, albeit a very belated step.

But the problem of racism remains, and some say it has evolved, as was highlighted by Paul McKenzie yesterday. In his article McKenzie claims that racism has become less overt and more subtle, stating: “Times have changed; the racism faced by my parents and their generation has gone, in its place is a ‘fog of racism’”.

In many ways this is true. Coming from a small town in Wales, this fog of racism is the kind I am most familiar with. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard, “I’m not racist, but…”. Prejudices seem to stem from ignorance of other cultures, attitudes of parents, or mindsets of blame – the classic one being that “immigrants are taking our jobs”.

In Wales, the main organisation dealing with racism is Show Racism the Red Card Wales (SRTRC), which uses sport as a means of combating the issue. Count Me In Cymru spoke to Jason Webber, a campaign worker for SRTRC about the issue of racism in Wales.

Wales overall is less multicultural than England, is racism less of a problem in Wales?
No certainly not. We see racism in primary and secondary schools across Wales, racism on the pitch, and even from parents watching games. It’s always been the case, it just doesn’t always get highlighted or sometimes just doesn’t get reported. There’s a lot of stuff that happens that people don’t realise is racism.

In Wales ‘jokey’ racism towards the English is common. Is this something we need to tackle if we are to put a stop to racism in Wales?
Yes certainly. We explain to young people that racism covers four areas: skin colour, nationality, religion or culture. What we need to be careful of is where it’s started off as a bit of banter, but ends up in someone being hurt or killed. I think unfortunately it’ll take a serious incident occurring from that sort of banter before people start really taking note of it. We teach that it is racism but unfortunately it is widely accepted.

Are there any changes you’d like to see in future on how we deal with racism in Wales?
I think working with young people is key. More needs to be done in terms of embedding racism education within the national curriculum. We did some research last year where we found that 80% of teachers actually had no training on anti-racism, so we delivered 14 anti-racism conferences to teachers and trainee teachers across Wales.

Sadly, the murder of Anuj Bidve on Boxing Day suggests overt racism still exists, though perhaps occurring in more isolated incidents. The fact that racism has generally become less acceptable, and people seek to hide their prejudice can only be a good thing. But the inherent difficulty of this cultural shift is that racism has become harder to pinpoint and uproot. Racism is no longer an ugly scar on the face of society, but an invisible cancer, spreading harm below the surface.

Homelessness in Wales is a problem.

Statistics released in June show it is a growing problem. From January to March 2011, compared to the same quarter last year; the number of Welsh households accepted as homeless rose to 1,655 ( a 13% increase) and the number of households in temporary accommodation grew to 2,640 ( a rise of  6%).  In Swansea, Carmarthenshire, Newport, Merthyr Tydfil, Cardiff, Wrexham, Gwynedd and Anglesey the proportion of people accepted as homeless was above the Welsh average.

These statistics do not include those classed as intentionally homeless (homeless by their own act or omission), so the actual number of homeless people will be far higher. Clearly there is a need to tackle the problem of homelessness head on; sooner, rather than later.

Count Me In Cymru interviewed Keri Harris, Chairman of social inclusion charity Street Football Wales, to learn about how they help homeless people get back on their feet.

How does Street Football Wales help those who are socially excluded?

“In a nutshell Street Football Wales is all about creating opportunity for people of all different backgrounds and playing football in a safe and fun environment; changing lives for the better. For example; for those who are homeless, they can really interact with the other players and feel included. And for those with substance misuse issues, it gives them one day they know they have to stay clean. As a result that sends the message; if they can stay clean for one day, why not two days, why not a week? ”

Chairman Keri Haris and coach Paul Scarfi with Welsh dragons team, courtesy of Street Football Wales

How did Street Football Wales start?

“In 2003 I was working for Big Issue Cymru. Our director came back from a conference and asked me to start up a football team. I wasn’t really keen on football, I’ve always been more interested in rugby to be honest!

The first homeless world cup was going to be held in Austria in 2003. We took a team over , not really knowing what to expect and it was a life changing experience, not just for the players but for myself too. Seeing the positive impact it could have on people was incredible.

 We came back wanting to continue it but there was nothing we could really join. The team wanted to stay together but with the various organisations we looked into joining people being judgemental towards us and clearly it just wasn’t going to work. We needed a project on its own for people who are socially excluded. That’s how it was set up in 2004 as an eight team project.”

In action, image courtesy of Street Football Wales

Is it common to see people turn their lives around while playing for Street Football Wales?

“There’s been many many success stories. To name a few; Chris Stockwell is now living independently, he’s working and he even wants to help volunteer to coach with Street Football Wales. Terry Fitzpatrick is someone who’s seen he can really achieve whatever he wants. He’s now in university in Carmarthen, and has passed the first year of his social work course with flying colours. A lot of the boys from the group we took out to the Milan Homeless World Cup in 2009 have now become fathers and are in stable relationships and it’s fantastic to see them get back on their feet.”

Street Football Wales is just one of the many charities in Wales which seeks to help homeless people, but with homelessness on the rise the government must play its part. On October 24th the Welsh Government announced a review into homelessness legislation following research completed in May (downloadable here). Criticisms emerging from the research included:

  • Resources are often wasted
  • Homelessness legislation should address more than just housing
  • Earlier intervention is needed
  • Young and vulnerable people should be exempt from the intentionality test
  • More guidance is needed

The review will be launched led by Dr Peter Mackie, lecturer in Housing at Cardiff University.

Keep your coins I want change Banksy image, courtesy of Michael Pickard at