This was received this morning. It is a letter providing a witness statement from a fan in the thick of the crowd, where the allegation made by Chelsea’s Antonio Rudige focuses.
I have just sent the following email to Donna Cullen (Spurs Director), Bruce Buck (Chelsea Chairman), Nigel Adams (Minister for Sport), David Lammy (MP for Tottenham), Mark Bullingham (CEO of the FA), Kick It Out, the Premier League, the Press Association and the joint chair people of the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust:
To all concerned,
There is a photograph taken at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium on Sunday of Antonio Rudiger, Harry Kane and the referee, Anthony Taylor, in discussion after the sending off of Heung Min Son. It appeared on both the Telegraph and Guardian website front pages. I post the link here:
In the stands, immediately behind Harry Kane’s head, you can see a tall, rather angry looking, middle aged man pointing his finger in Antonio Rudiger’s direction. That man is me. I begin with this revelation, for want of a better word, because I wish to establish that there can hardly have been more than half a dozen fans in the stadium who were closer to where Sunday’s big talking point unfolded than me. I was probably less than twenty yards away.
And I am as convinced as it is possible to be that there was no racism directed at Antonio Rudiger. I could not be more certain that this unprecedented media storm is, in fact, the consequence of a huge misunderstanding on Antonio Rudiger’s part.
To be clear, please do not mistake my stance for that of someone who lightly dismisses or excuses racism; or for that of a fan incapable of objectivity and in denial about the possibility that racists exist within all clubs’ fan bases. For me, the fight to eradicate racism in football far exceeds in importance and worthiness the desire to defend my club’s reputation. I know that there are racists among all fan bases – Spurs included. And should I ever witness racism from Spurs fans, I would want the full force of the law to bear down on them.
So, to the events of Sunday afternoon and why I so wholeheartedly believe what I believe. By way of background, for what it’s worth, I have no real argument with Son’s sending off. He did make a slight, if aborted, move of his feet towards Rudiger as he tumbled. And such an action is likely to result in a red card.
Nevertheless, that can’t excuse Antonio Rudiger’s reaction. Jose Mourinho said it best when he sarcastically wished the Chelsea defender a speedy recovery from the multiple broken ribs that he must have suffered. There is nothing more cowardly within football than feigning injury in order to get an opposition player sent off.
As English football fans are wont to do in such circumstances, thousands of us in the south stand chanted “cheat, cheat, cheat, cheat…” at Antonio Rudiger. It was at that specific moment that he turned and gestured angrily at us before going to his captain / the referee to complain about having been the target of monkey noises.
When English is not your first language and when you are unfamiliar with English fan culture, 5000 or so English fans chanting “cheat, cheat, cheat….” at a fast tempo and unsynchronized could, I suspect, sound very much like monkey noises. The timing of Antonio Rudiger’s angry gesture towards the fans and immediate subsequent discussions with his captain and the referee confirms that suspicion.
The only alternative is that Antonio Rudiger is claiming that he heard a lone voice making monkey noises. And if that is the case, then I say that Antonio Rudiger is a liar. There is not the remotest chance that he could have isolated that lone voice above the nigh on identical sound of 5000 fans repeatedly shouting “cheat”.
Of course, it is possible that, in a quieter moment, Antonio Rudiger heard this lone, racist voice. But no one else did. Nor could Spurs’ and the police’s forensic CCTV study of every fan in the crowd identify a guilty party. Besides, I am quite confident that the person to whom this lone voice belonged would have been quickly shopped – or at least shopped by now – if he existed. Spurs fans do not tolerate racism. So I can only conclude that this person does not exist. And since I have no reason to believe that Antonio Rudiger would lie about such a serious matter, the only remaining, plausible explanation that fits the facts is that he mistook chants of “cheat” for monkey noises. That’s why he gestured angrily at fans in the south stand. He couldn’t have been reacting to anything else.
In the meanwhile, the name and reputation of Spurs fans has been dragged through the mud. There has been an unprecedented level of coverage and outcry concerning Sunday’s events – wholly out of proportion with any previous instance of alleged racism. It is more than a little ironic given that, more than any club’s fans, Spurs fans have repeatedly been on the receiving end of genuine, vile racist abuse that has repeatedly received little to no media coverage.
So I believe that, given the evidence that I have supplied above and given the complete absence of any evidence pointing to anyone having [sic] directed monkey noises at Antonio Rudiger, Spurs and Spurs fans are owed an apology that is every bit as widely disseminated, loudly proclaimed and sincerely meant as the accusations and opprobrium that has rained down on us for the past few days.
Antonio Rudiger should be presented with the facts as I saw them and asked if he hasn’t, in fact, made an innocent mistake – albeit one that has had huge consequences. There can be no blame directed at him for such an innocent mistake, so he should not feel afraid to admit it. Far better that than to stubbornly stick to his story without knowing, beyond doubt, that he genuinely heard what he thought he heard.
I could not be more aware that the fight to eradicate racism within football is of paramount importance. And I fully acknowledge that those charged with the running of clubs and the game more generally have a great responsibility to support players who are subject to racism. Rightly so. But I therefore suspect that, if no evidence of racism is found in this instance, the matter will be allowed to fade from public attention without further comment being made.
And the stain of racist abuse will linger and taint the reputation of Spurs and Spurs fans henceforward. And that is not fair. And it does a disservice to the genuine fight against racism. I cannot and will not allow this to happen. I hope to see positive action from each of you to whom I have sent this email.
If you wish to contact me for further discussion, please do so. If you wish to publish or use what I have written for further discussion elsewhere, you have my permission – so long as you do not edit it to alter its meaning in any way, however subtle. If nothing is done and if no evidence of racist behaviour is found and presented to the media, then I will have to consider what further action I (with the help of other Spurs fans) might have to take to make right the wrong that I believe has been done to Spurs’ fans.
Thank you all for taking the time to read the above. I hope that it has been of some help. I look forward to your responses and to whatever subsequent action you are able to take.
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