Youth football coach says his players are regularly victims of racism: ‘my under 11 walked off crying after being kicked and called a monkey’
- Mohammed Waheed is coach and founder of Bradford grassroots team, Alpha United Juniors
- The club received an MBE Queens Award in 2019 for its work with local youngsters
- He has issued over a dozen complaints to the FA over a seven-year period
The head coach of a Bradford football team says that his players suffer racism on a regular basis with little punishment being given to offenders.
Mohammed Waheed said, in one incident last season, an under 11 player was kicked and called a monkey by opposing players after scoring a hat trick.
He said: “It went to the half-time break where two opposing players got pulled to the side by the coach and got told to go for the kid that scored the hat trick.
“My player happened to be of black origin and straight away they were after him, kicking him, calling him x y and z.
“After 10 minutes the kid comes off crying and said that they were calling him monkey and that he should eat a banana.”
Mohammed believes the coach was to blame for allegedly giving ‘orders’ to the youngsters. He also said that a couple of parents nearby could have also had an influence on the children’s behaviour.
The coach related a similar incident two years ago, where he claimed a referee was racist towards Mohammed’s team in an FA People’s Cup match in Sheffield. Mohammed said he provided footage of the incident to the Sheffield County FA.
His players were said to be mocked racially by the friends of the opposing team who were stood pitchside.
Mohammed said: “As the kids were saying it, the ref was joking along with them and muttering something to them. He then decided to give a phantom red card to us.”
A phantom red card is a red card given without explanation to the player of the team involved.
“This was then followed by a nasty challenge from them. They missed the ball, no pen, and my player was left with a broken bone,” said Mohammed.
“As the ref continued to converse with the other kids, I had no choice but to go on the pitch and removed my team from play. The ref was later escorted off the premises and still claims nothing happened.”
Mohammed said that the relevant footage was given to the FA, yet after six months it “went missing” and the opposing club had deleted their footage of the incident.
He believes the FA is not doing enough to help combat the issue of racism in grassroots football. The Alpha coach points the finger at the County FA, for “not being professional”.
He said: “I’ve asked my local county for a list over all the cases I’ve made over the last seven years and all they had no record of what I’ve tracked previously, which is wrong.
“There is no record of what incident took place, what happened, who was there, who was involved etc.
“The process provided by the FA for dealing with racism is clearly non-existent.”
According to Kick It Out, the number of reported racist incidents in grassroots football has increased by over 70% from 2016/17 to 2018/19. Kick It Out is largely funded by the FA, yet there are only two members of staff allocated to covering the grassroots areas of England.
The northern grassroots officer, Arran Williams, believes that Brexit has a link with an increase in racism in the game.
He said: “if you look at the levels of austerity and the increased hate in society in general, you see that there is a trend in times of the EU ferendum coincided with hate crimes.”
“Football is a reflection of society and unfortunately those crimes are reflected in football as well.”
He said education could help combat the issue but said Kick It Out lacked the resources to implement changes on a large scale.
“We would like to be able to work in a much more in-depth way within grassroots football, but we are bound by what we’ve got at the moment,” he said.
Mohammed has some sympathy with Kick It Out and has worked personally with Williams. He says that Williams has been “brilliant” and is doing as much as he can with the limited resources.