LONDON. — Former England defender Sol Campbell believes his fellow black soccer players are “too scared” to speak out about racism.
The 39-year-old, who retired two years ago after playing for Tottenham, Arsenal, Portsmouth, Notts County and Newcastle, claimed in March he could have been England captain for 10 years had he been white.
Campbell admits he has been disappointed by the reaction of several black ex-professionals, accusing them of being “too scared to own up” to the fact they have been victims of — or witnessed — racial abuse.
And Campbell is ready for the backlash.
For black players that speak frankly on racism in England it always comes.
Largely from a football community unwilling to address the imbalance between its substantial black playing contingent and those that go on to actually manage its clubs. Currently zero in England.
What shocked Campbell on the last occasion he spoke openly on the issue of race and the England captaincy, however, was the reaction of several black ex-pros.
They distanced themselves from Campbell’s claim that he would have been England captain for the next 10 years had he been white — even though he subsequently clarified those comments made in his autobiography.
Campbell said: “They are seeing what is happening around them and they don’t do anything about it. They love the status quo. They want to just toe the line.
“It’s a case of, ‘I’m alright, I don’t care who is coming up behind me. I’m too scared to own up’.
“Well, I’m not like that and I am never going to be like that. I’m just going to be me.
“People could have said what they did in a different way. John Barnes had bananas thrown at him. He is almost acting as if nothing happened to him.
“People like him could have said: ‘Maybe not 10 years but I could see where he was coming from. Articulate it in a different way’. Then you’ve got Paul Ince in the Daily Mail. It’s like: ‘Really?!’ What position are you protecting when your position can so easily be taken away?
“I know some of the political people are trying to kind of move the FA in certain ways.
“But you just get to the stage where, if I’ve got black ex-players going against me then you start to think: ‘What is going on here? I’ll just let people drift and carry on doing my own thing’.”
Addressing the accusation from critics that he had only made his controversial England claim to promote his autobiography, Campbell — who gave a Commons speech on racism in football last week — said: “It’s a book. They are my experiences. Am I not going to say what was on my mind or be honest about my feelings?”
He was speaking at the launch of the Brixton-based Black Cultural Archive. In years to come Campbell could find himself alongside the likes of Mary Seacole and Olaudah Equiano at the south London centre which explores the role that black people have played in British history.
The ex-defender was England’s second-youngest captain at the age of 23. In 2006 he became the only player to have represented England in six successive major tournaments.
In 2004 he was part of the Arsenal Invincibles team that stormed to the Premier League title undefeated.
Yet Campbell, a big supporter of the new £7million archive, believes a black player with his experience in the future would still have little chance of sporting the Three Lions’ armband on a regular basis.
Left-back Ashley Cole (32) retired from international football this summer after being omitted from Roy Hodgson’s World Cup squad despite having the experience of five major tournaments.
“At the moment black players are not in a position to compete.” Campbell said.
As for the Rooney Rule, which would see candidates of colour included on short lists for managerial positions in a bid to address a lack of black managers?
“No chance. Because of the chairmen and the people around the chairmen. Some of the chairmen are blinkered in terms of where they are from or what they know so they obviously rely on the group of people below them to help.”
Campbell, who retired from playing two years ago, is working towards gaining his coaching badges through the Football Association of Wales.
“I’m on the last bit of my A-Licence and I am starting my Pro in September.” he said. “I’m going to get it and then I am going to see where life goes from there.”
“Yet, like many recently retired black players in England, he is pessimistic about the qualification actually leading to a job.
He believes black players have a lesser value in the eyes of English club chairman compared to ex-pros from abroad.
“Look at Ruud Gullit and Jean Tigana, they are black and have managed in this country,” he added. “We’ve got black players who have achieved similar things to them domestically and have the same level of quality.
“That’s where it gets bizarre. What’s the mentality of the hierarchy? Where are they going when they look abroad to employ a black player who has been fantastic at football rather than someone who has actually been in England on the same level?
“The problem is with the mentality. But the FA is the key to change. It is easier for them to integrate black coaches into their system.
“Look at (ex-Charlton boss) Chris Powell. Why is he not in the England set-up? He is not going to rock the boat, he is a good coach. He has all his badges. He has shown himself to be a fine manager in his own right.
“The FA are trying to do this coaching thing where they are helping out black players to be able to get boardroom jobs and things like that.
“They are supporting it and that’s good. But that sort of thing should be inside the FA. It should come under the FA umbrella.
“That shouldn’t be an external thing. That thing costs money to run. That should be in your manifesto. Why is it not? Ask Greg Dyke.” — The Mirror.