Scottish Daily Mail
I’d love to sit down with those who shouted at me TIME TO TAKE A STAND
I was racially abused in Scottish football. It stays with you and we need to call it out
CHRISTIAN NADE has a story to tell about racism in football. A tale which challenges the complacent assumption that Scottish fans have always been more concerned with the school a man went to than the colour of his skin.
A wizened veteran of the SPFL scene with Hearts, Raith Rovers, Dundee and Dumbarton, Nade can relate to the treatment of Christian Mbulu, Scott Sinclair and Dennon Lewis in recent weeks.
The Motherwell substitute was subjected to vile taunts by a section of the Hearts support on Saturday, Police Scotland making two arrests as Tynecastle owner Ann Budge issued lifetime bans.
Footage also emerged last week of an Aberdeen supporter directing racist abuse at Celtic winger Sinclair during the Betfred Cup final.
Falkirk’s Lewis, meanwhile, was ‘devastated’ by racist abuse from his own fans during a recent Scottish Cup game.
Now 34 and playing for Troon Juniors, Nade absorbed images of Raheem Sterling being abused by middle-aged Chelsea supporters on Saturday. A victim of racial abuse as a player in Cyprus and Thailand, racism, he points out, is not unique to the Scottish league.
Asked if he was a target for the slings and arrows of the braindead, however, he tells Sportsmail: ‘I would be lying if I said no.
‘I tried not to pay too much attention. I tried not to be bothered by it. I don’t want to give these people a platform or to let them get inside my head or do anything stupid.
‘It happened when I was playing for Raith Rovers away. It also happened once when I was at Hearts.
‘The first time I heard it was away at Hibs. It was a young boy close to the pitch when we were warming up.
‘It was the usual: “You are a black so and so. You are lazy, go back to your own country!”. Unbelievable.
‘It can happen in the blink of an eye and you can’t believe what you heard. There is silence and then…
‘The first time I heard it, I felt shock. I had never heard it before in Scotland and it really affected me. I had to go and play and it was difficult. The racism I have faced has been wild sometimes and I try to blot it out.
‘But you know what? These kind of things mark you and they stay in your head.’
When fans of Rangers or Celtic can live with chants about being up to their knees in ‘fenian blood’ or render opposition managers an ‘orange b ****** ’, it should come as no real surprise that some see the colour of a man’s skin as an impediment to acceptance.
Nade applauds his former club for taking a strong stand on the issue. Addressing the creeping right-wing extremist element of the Hearts support, however, the former Tynecastle striker believes the onus is on decent supporters to identify the culprits and have them ejected. ‘Taking them to court won’t solve anything,’ he argued. ‘All it will do is provoke more rage in the hearts of these people. ‘They have to be banned from football. And the people next to him need to point fingers. ‘Supporters need to say: “You can’t do that here”. It’s not only white against black. White people are subjected to racism as well, maybe because the religion they believe in is insulted. ‘Racism has different aspects. But it can only be dealt with in a football stadium if someone starts shouting racist stuff and the guy next to him is not happy with it and starts pointing the finger at the racist.
‘That’s when we will start moving forward.
‘There is nothing to be ashamed of denouncing this kind of thing. It has no place in football and people should not be embarrassed about taking a stand.’
Plagued by mental demons after a court case and suicide bid earlier this year, Nade admits the racism left a mark on his psyche.
Even now, he wishes he could turn the clock back and sit down with the idiots who yelled racist abuse to talk about why they behaved as they did.
‘No one can know how it feels unless it has happened to them,’ said Nade. ‘I was always too young to make a stand on it. And I don’t want to play the victim. I am not a victim and never have been.
‘It’s dangerous ground and I don’t want to get too deep, but now if there is abuse and I can confront the person who says it, I will.
‘I would love to sit down with the guys who shouted racist abuse at me and say: “What are you doing?”. I don’t mean violence or anything. I just want to know: “Where are you coming from? Why do you think like that?”.
‘It’s difficult to understand. Usually these people are clueless. They don’t even know where the racism comes from.
‘But I would love to say to them: “Why do you do this to me when I have done nothing to you?”.’
His own instances of abuse came in different forms. Former Hearts boss Csaba Laszlo compared him to a ‘fat student’. Shown comments on a Dundee messageboard, he almost drove his car off the road when he read Dens Park fans accusing him of being too slow and too fat.
Employing a personal trainer, he acquired a six pack and embraced religion. The one thing he couldn’t change was the colour of his skin.
Despite the abuse, a bout of depression and damaging charges of domestic abuse earlier this year — he was cleared on all six — the Frenchman is still here. Undeterred and determined to tell the tale.
‘You want to come and play here because it is the best place,’ he told Sportsmail. ‘There is great passion here. And racism happened to me everywhere.
‘I played in Cyprus and in Thailand. In Thailand, I spoke once to people saying bad racist stuff.
‘They would say to me: “When you go to Africa, you see flies in people’s eyes. It’s disgusting”. That was their view of Africa. I would say: “What are you talking about?”.
‘What I would say to kids playing football is that when you are a foreigner you need to be ten times better than the people from that country. If you are only half better than him, they won’t take to you. You will be picked on by supporters. You become an easy target.
‘Racists are more clever now. They are on social media. They can hide in a crowd. There is not much you can do except change the way people think.’