When Middlesbrough’s Egyptian striker Mido gestured at the Newcastle fans after he scored on Saturday (putting his finger to his lips to quiet them) one instantly wondered what they’d been chanting to upset him so much. One wondered if it might have had to do with his penchant for a few too many pies, perhaps, or his remarkable club-hopping-odyssey.
Sadly, it was not that kind of banter a local rivalry is bound to bring out. Instead, as the Guardian reports, the abuse focused on Mido’s Muslim heritage, with chants such as “Mido, he’s got a bomb you know.” Interestingly, as this blogger notes, the Daily Mail (a right-wing newspaper) fails to mention the Islamophobic abuse in its report on the incident. Mido was also called a “paedo”, a reference to a 1980s child abuse scandal that had, well, nothing to do with Mido.
Fanzine editors from both clubs take, perhaps not surprisingly, completely different tacks on whether or not this kind of abuse is acceptable or not. The Boro fan makes the point that this goes far beyond ‘local rivalry’; the Newcastle fan the exact opposite point.
Rob Nicols, editor of Fly Me to the Moon, the principal Boro fanzine, was disturbed by Mido’s treatment. “It was a disgrace,” he said yesterday. “This goes beyond local rivalry. Racism is completely unacceptable and the paedophile taunt was also totally unacceptable. Condemnation needs to come from Newcastle United and their supporters’ groups to show that they are doing something about it.”
No one from Newcastle was available for comment yesterday but Ian Cusack, of the Newcastle fanzine True Faith, who was at the game, said: “The Mido chants were very unsavoury but I don’t think they were racist, Newcastle have Muslim players, Emre is a Muslim. They were just a way of winding the opposition up but they didn’t work as Mido scored. The chants should be placed in the context of local rivalry.”
Unfortunately for Ian Cusack, placing them in that context does not justify them, and nor does the fact that Emre’s a Muslim (some of my best friends are black!). Any Newcastle fans who participated in the chants — however drunk they are, and however much they hate Boro — should be ashamed of themselves, but it reflects even worse on Mr. Cusack that he’s decided to defend the chants in the cold light of day as well.