Former Leyton Orient defender Bobby Fisher reflects on racism in football

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Laurie Cunningham experienced racism alongside team-mate Bobby Fisher: Action Images Laurie Cunningham experienced racism alongside team-mate Bobby Fisher: Action Images

Racism in football is certainly a hot topic currently after the incidents on the continent, but the question being asked is, are people doing enough to eradicate this dark side of the game?

Bobby Fisher, 57, who made 350 for Leyton Orient at full back, believes that although racism has curbed, it is more down to the people involved with the game rather than the football authorities.

He said: “Racism is just not allowed to happen anymore as people know it is morally wrong and people are losing their ignorance that drove their beliefs.”

Fisher also believes that black players need to make a stand against racism and unite, possibly strike, as these days, a lot of teams have black players and this would cause disruption to the game.

Player walk offs such as when Kevin Prince Boateng did so in Italy could be another effective move, with Fisher saying: “It takes a lot of strength to do that but sometimes players are not strong enough.”

As a black footballer during the 1970’s, Fisher did suffer some horrendous racist slurs during his career, but he put a lot of it down to ignorance and naivety.

He said: “In the context, there were not many black players at the time during the 1970s and the fans, management, players and even to some extent some referees, were ignorant in their views.”

One match which stands out in Fisher’s mind, is against Millwall at The Den in 1974, where he and his other black teammate, Laurie Cunningham, were spat on and subject to abusive chants.

This happened throughout the entire match until Cunningham scored a last minute winner, which brought silence from the home support.

At the final whistle, Fisher remembers when he and Cunningham gave the Millwall fans the black power salute.

With the baying Millwall fans climbing up fences and cutting themselves at the barbed wire, Fisher recollects the fear as a kitchen knife went hurtling passed them and believes had the crowd managed to get to them, they could have killed the pair.

Back then, it wasn’t just the fans of opposing teams which would get on their back, but also opposing managers.

Fisher recalled an opposing manager shouting ‘in off the black, nine away’, the snooker reference coming after a black Orient player had scored an own goal.

Although, one man who backed black players was Fishers’ own boss, George Petchey, as he pushed the black players to prove they were as good as the white players.

He also gave the advice not to stoop to the level of the abusers, but to rise above it by playing the best every match.

Though on one occasion, Fisher remembers Petchey saying to Cunningham, “Next time a banana comes at you, pick it up, eat it and throw it back”, much like Dani Alves did.

Fisher, who became the first mixed race captain of Leyton Orient, does believe that the black players can do more to help the problem.

He said: “The authorities in Europe are still quite lapse about it and the black players over here don’t do enough about it.

“I think we need a black football association and if they work hard, they could eradicate it from today’s game, although there will always be a small minority of pure racists.”

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