I understand why he did so - ALL managers defend their players even on the flimsiest of terms - but I do wish the Blackburn Rovers manager Sam Allardyce hadn’t offered his support to El Hadji Diouf. The Senegalese striker deserves none.
Diouf used to play for Liverpool. He must expect to attract abuse at some away grounds, certainly at Goodison Park and at Old Trafford. Much of it, thank heavens, is light-hearted but will he ever learn that he simply has to take it?
He claims that bananas were thrown at him during the Everton game the other Sunday. It is a particularly infantile form of racism ‘beloved’ in the 80s. But it isn’t true. Merseyside Police investigated the allegation and quickly decided there was no evidence to support it.
Indeed, much more disturbing, surely, was the allegation made AGAINST Diouf regarding his supposed verbal abuse of a ball boy: that he had yelled “F off white boy”, claiming the 14-year-old had thrown the ball at him “like a bone to a dog”.
Diouf, sadly, because he is a richly talented player, has ‘history’.
I saw him first in the World Cup in 2002 when he was instrumental in the opening day defeat of the then champions France. I wasn’t surprised that Gerrard Houllier took him to Anfield. But it wasn’t long before you wondered if his snarling approach to opposition players and fans might out-weigh the contribution of his undoubted skills.
Within a year he was spitting at a smiling Celtic supporter who’d patted him playfully on the head as he fell over a hoarding into the crowd at Parkhead.
Diouf claimed that: “in Senegalese culture it is insulting to be touched on the head because slave traders once did it”. Experts on the subject were puzzled by what he’d said. Simply, he’d played the race card.
And spitting became a Diouf habit. There was the case of an 11-year-old fan at Middlesbrough and then, soon after, at the former Portsmouth player Arjan De Zeeuw. Each time Diouf alleged he’d been provoked by racist abuse.
Now I have no doubt whatsoever that racism still exists within football. How can you miss hearing the taunts of “black bastard”?
I remember berating police outside Barnsley one night — there were none of them inside the ground — at how there’d been no punishment as an Arsenal player was persistently racially abused. I’d been able to point out the offender to a steward.
And it’s one of the reasons why I desperately hope the tide at Tranmere turns in favour of John Barnes. You see, he was a player that really did have bananas thrown at him at Everton. Barnes suffered disgraceful abuse because of the colour of skin, even when he played so gloriously for England.
Diouf does Barnes and all the rest of us that want to see racism kicked out of the game no favours. I wouldn’t be sorry to see him out of English football.