Norwich City coach Adrian Forbes has spoken about his experiences dealing with racist abuse during his career as a professional footballer as the Club dedicates its next game to raising awareness of the Kick It Out campaign.
This year marks 25 years of Kick It Out campaigning for equality in football and at Wednesday’s home match against Reading both captains will be wearing armbands and exchanging pennants, with the Club also supporting the anti-discrimination message through its channels in the lead up to kick-off.
And in an exclusive interview with canaries.co.uk, Forbes, 40, said he is proud to stand alongside the Club in supporting the cause.
“It’s something that I am really proud of and something I have been a part of as a player wearing the T-shirts, using the banners and raising awareness,” he said. “For someone like me who has been in Norfolk since 1995, it is brilliant to see a Club of this size and this stature raising awareness, and with everything else we are doing on the pitch at the moment the spotlight is on us.
“It’s going to be a really good event on Wednesday and hopefully it will get the media coverage that it deserves and hopefully the fans can embrace it and continue to shout about racism in football and make sure that no fan or player who comes to Carrow Road ever has to face it.
“I have never faced any of it here in Norwich which is really pleasing for me and I have three mixed-race children who haven’t faced it either, so I think that speaks volumes. And if we can have somewhere like Norfolk where I can live here and not experience it, then I am sure we can have more of the more diverse areas embracing it too.”
Forbes joined Norwich’s Academy at the age of 11 and worked up to play in City’s First Team before moving to Luton, Swansea, Blackpool, Millwall and Grimsby.
He said: “When I go back to my playing days as a young, middle-aged and then older black player, the reality is that I did go to certain grounds where there was some form of racial abuse aimed at me. That is not every ground, but there are some, and I think it’s unfortunate that in 2019 we are still seeing it. Whether it be the England team and what they faced in Montenegro a few weeks ago, it’s still very, very prominent in the game.
“Organisations like Kick It Out are raising awareness that it is not acceptable and that things need to be done. It’s good that there is an organisation which is prepared to fight and stand up for black players, coaches and managers within the game and it almost gives them a mouthpiece to speak through. But despite the great work that they have done over 25 years, it’s quite evident that more needs to be done to raise awareness of it.
“If you go back to the start of the 25 years when it was set up, racism was very prominent in the game. There seemed to be a bit of a period of time where some strides were made and it wasn’t as bad as it was, but now all of a sudden for the last year or so it seems to have really reared its head in a really ugly fashion. It’s a shame that it’s still in the game and in an era when there are a lot of black players who are bringing a big value not just to the Premier League and Championship, but to football globally.”
Now working for the Club as a League Foundation Phase Coach with players from the age of nine to 15, Forbes said it’s his job to educate the players he works with.
“I feel as a black coach that I have a massive responsibility for the players that I work with and coach on a daily basis, but also for any other young, black aspiring coaches that are coming through the game. It’s hard enough now to get the relevant qualifications and to get to the top of the coaching tree, and it’s well documented that the number of black managers, the number of teams in the game and the number of players in the game that are black, Asian and minority ethnic doesn’t add up.
“And I see myself in a situation where it’s vital that I conduct myself in the right way as a black coach so I can be a role model for these players coming through and also educate them how to deal with these situations if they ever come across it.”
Going forwards, the City coach said he would like to see bigger punishments handed out to Clubs whose fans continue to act in a racist manner.
He said: “I think it starts with someone like myself educating the next generation and making them understand that this is not the way to conduct yourself by singling anyone out because of their race, creed, skin colour, upbringing or background. And I think if I can be the nucleus to the players that I am around, they can then pass that on to the next generation.
“I also think the football authorities need to look at the bigger picture because it’s not just going on in football, it’s going on in society and it’s much wider. If we look at the Montenegro situation, there was a lot of focus put on England players suffering racism, but for me it’s happening in Premier League grounds as well. I think we need to look after ourselves first and the leagues we play in here, and then after that of course we have got to look at the England national team when we go to other countries.
“We need bigger sanctions and I am not talking about fines. I think points need to be deducted, I think teams need to be given a ban or suspension and I think that will have a far wider reach and impact on the fans. I think until something like that is done, there won’t be much of a change.”
To find out more about Kick It Out, click here.