A banner carrying racist connotations created by Lokomotiv Moscow fans ©PHOTO CREDIT
Racism is horrible: to use more elaborate phraseology is to soften the sentiment. The issue has appeared on West Brom's agenda for the first time in This Blog's memory following the arrival of Peter Odemwingie from Lokomotiv Moscow, which prompted a group of Lokomotiv’s fans to create a banner celebrating his exit, using a banana as a pretty appalling, derogatory reference to his race.
Examples of racism at football grounds like this one demonstrate two sad realities: that tribalism - a player leaves a club and is instantly vilified by a whole group of people - still overrides basic human decency all too often in football and that some people, even in 2010, carry prejudices based on race.
Cautiously, and being parochial, we can take some pleasure in declaring that tribalism is at least under control in English football. Players moving clubs remain objects of derision, but increasingly irony is attached and racial attacks are a rarity, never tolerated or defended, as the Russian federation has attempted to do in the case of the Odemwingie banner. The Hawthorns in particular has always been a tolerant place to play football, with the policy 'if you're good enough, we'll get behind you' brilliantly optimistic and fair.
The second disturbing reality though - that some people say and do racist things for no reason but a failure of logic - is more difficult to glean positives from. These people are still out there - judging others on superficial grounds such as race. And dealing with them is, ultimately, just a sad, seemingly futile, venture that leads to frustration and disappointment.
Logic fails to reach some, but we shouldn't accept it – on principal.
Education is initially a compelling tool against prejudice and, when it fails, punishment, like banning perpetrators from grounds, is the way to rid football of ugly, twisted, embarrassing racism - that depressing blot on its glorious tapestry.
We can but hope that the creators of the banner above will recieve a serious enough punishment as to stop anyone following in their tiny footsteps.
Peter Odemwingie has, happily, come to a place where his footballing ability is what he will be judged on, and his debut goal suggests a pleasing verdict.