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   Monday, 4 November, 2002, 15:35 GMT
Society has to change - Barnes
John Barnes on the ball for Liverpool
John Barnes became an Anfield icon
World Football's Alan Green talks exclusively to England legend John Barnes about his personal struggles with racism...

John Barnes fought through the racist abuse he suffered to become arguably the most successful black English player of all time. He told me about some of his personal experiences.

John Barnes of Liverpool
Barnes experienced racist taunts
"I remember as far back as 1981 playing at places like Millwall and West Ham when you'd get the usual monkey noises and bananas being thrown onto the pitch" he said.

"It was almost an accepted part of society so not very much was made of it. I considered them to be ignorant, so I never responded to it because I thought they would have won if it had affected my game.

"There has been a big deal made of it recently, but it would have been nice if they'd done that twenty years ago!

"I suppose the most famous incident was in 1987 or 1988 when I was playing for Liverpool against Everton and I back-heeled a banana off the pitch. Because Liverpool v Everton was a very high-profile game a lot was made of it, but that sort of thing had been going on for years and years" he said.
John Barnes lifts the League trophy in 1988
Barnes had a glittering career at Liverpool

As Barnes' profile increased, so did the abuse.

"The more high-profile I got the more the media became interested" he said.

"I remember in 1984 when I was playing for England against Brazil and there was a group of National Front supporters on the plane with us who were supposedly coming out to support England. The South Americans couldn't understand the abuse I was getting from them. It was an unpleasant situation".

"I don't think the situation has gone away or improved. It's just got quieter. If you tell a racist that for 90 minutes on a Saturday or Wednesday night that they have to keep their mouth shut, and the other six days and 22 hours they can be a racist, I don't see how that's doing anything to stop racism.

"Football does what it can" said Barnes.
John Barnes of England
"Something should have been done 20 years ago' - John Barnes

"We will know we have made great strides when we see more black and Asian supporters going to football matches, because while football can protect you for 90 minutes from overt racism - slogans and chanting - those fans still have to walk away from the stadiums and onto the bus and that's where they don't feel safe.

"I don't think footballers get the abuse they once did, but I don't think anything's changed in terms of the racism that exists in this country generally" he said.

"And football is a part of society, so I don't see why it should change in football".
John Barnes on the attack for England
John Barnes on the attack for England

Barnes said that while football can play it's part, he didn't think it could do any more.

"Football is a part of society, like any industry" he said. "It's not going to stop people being racist. It's only through educating the young that the situation will improve. Football can't so any more, it's society that has to change.

You can hear all of Alan Green's interview with John Barnes on World Football on Saturday 2 November. Use the audio link on the front page.


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