SPOT ON: Gary Neville speaks his mind. — AFP/VNA Photo
There’s an unwritten law that is only followed in Liverpool. It’s etched into the constitution and only the very brave will ever dare to break it.
It states quite clearly: “Under all circumstances, people must absolutely and unequivocally hate Gary Neville.”
The law was ‘drafted’ in the early 1990s after Neville became a regular for Manchester United and was followed to its letter for his entire playing career.
I’d like at this point to say: “Sorry Gary, it wasn’t personal mate.” But that would be utterly wrong. It was personal. Liverpool fans hate Gary Neville.
The reason was simple. He played for Liverpool’s biggest rival and was a very, very good defender in a very, very good team.
But this is a two-way street. There was zero love lost on Neville’s part for all things Liverpool and I’ve no doubt that, despite United being far superior to Liverpool for the majority of his career, he relished beating United’s northwestern rival more than any other team.
For me there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Gary was United through and through, and I have no problem whatsoever with him celebrating in front of Liverpool supporters when his team won. It’s the way it should be.
Since hanging up his boots Neville has gone on to form an excellent partnership as a pundit with former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher.
As well as being entertaining, the duo are also very knowledgeable about football and speak a lot of sense.
So much so, that I’ve found myself going against the law of Liverpool and actually really, really liking Neville and agreeing with most, if not everything, he has to say.
On Sunday, after yet another truly abhorrent display of racism from so-called football supporters, this time Tottenham ‘fans’ abusing Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger because of the colour of his skin, Neville spoke out.
Not for the first time he brought politics into his argument, pointing out that if racism is accepted among the major political parties in the UK, then why are we surprised it occurs in football grounds? And once again, Gary is absolutely spot on.
The United Kingdom has a recently elected Prime Minister who has in the past mocked Chinese people for the way they spoke English, referred to black people as "piccaninnies" with "water-melon" smiles and said Muslim women wearing burkas looked like "bank-robbers" and "letter-boxes".
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been criticised as well for his handling of the antisemitism allegations levied against him and his party.
Admittedly I’ve not lived in England for anything more than just a few months over the past 10 years, but from the outside looking in, the country clearly has a racism problem that, once again, is spilling onto the football terraces. And I’ve no idea how to stop it.
We’ve seen examples of racism levied at England players, particularly when they play in Eastern Europe, but to say it’s a continental problem is akin to digging a big hole on the beach and sticking your head in it. This is a major UK problem.
Footballers are paid to entertain. They play at their peak each week to provide untold joy, and in many cases heartache, to millions of fans the world over.
There is nothing wrong with rivalry. It is healthy, and there’s nothing wrong with hating a particularly player because he plays for a rival team, just like I did when Gary Neville played.
But hate them because of the colour of the shirt they wear, not because of the colour of their skin. — VNS