CNN to focus on racism in sport

MUMBAI: News broadcaster CNN International turns its attention to the global issue of Racism In Sport for a week-long series of programmes examining how some sports players from all colours and creeds are having to face hostility and violent behaviour. The series of reports and interviews, running throughout the week, concludes with a half-hour special, Playing Against Prejudice. This airs on 21 June at noon, 8 pm and on 22 June at noon.

Football is still prone to spectators' racist taunting and harassment. Paul Canoville was the very first black player at Chelsea Football Club in the UK more than 20 years ago. He was subjected to serious and sustained racial abuse throughout his career which scarred him for life. He tells CNN's Don Riddell: "It was an experience that I'll never forget and nobody else would let me forget. It was unbelievable...words that were said, you can't forget them, I can't forget them. I don't think anybody who has been racially abused would forget what it's like."

While things have moved on since Canoville's era - in last month's Champions League final, Chelsea fielded eight black players - racism is still prevalent in certain quarters.

Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o, who currently plays football for FC Barcelona, is interviewed in Playing Against Prejudice. He says, "It's a sad situation in football. In my opinion the problem is getting bigger and the people that should come up with a solution are not doing it…racism in football exists, not only in Spain, but in many countries." Eto'o has faced ongoing issues with monkey chants and bananas being thrown on the pitch.

But this is not an issue unique to football. Racism in Sport takes a global perspective, looking into incidents of prejudice in cricket with an in-depth look from India; a look into rugby and race in the rainbow nation (South Africa) and also in the US, which has perhaps more successfully than any other nation managed to integrate race into sports like baseball, American Football and golf.

However, the problems of racism in sport run far deeper than the colour of people's skin, as demonstrated by the spate of new attacks being made on religious and ethnic grounds. CNN’s World Sport anchor Don Riddell says, “In some top-level, win-at-all-costs professional sports, it seems as though racism has almost become an acceptable barb with which to jibe your opponent. Increasingly, there are examples of racism within international cricket; India and Australia have been the latest to clash. Sledging has always been cutting and personal, but it seems in some cases that a mark is being overstepped. Or is it all just a big misunderstanding?"

Riddell adds: “We sent our reporter to the heartland of the game, India, to see if racism really is a problem and if so, to find out what is being done. How are children being raised in the game, and are insults – of whatever nature – considered acceptable to those who will one day represent their country on the international stage?”

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