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Making a comeback?
By Spartacus
Funny, isn't it, how football is regarded as the world's game, but at times the game has been hijacked by extreme right-wing groups or hooligans. More often than not, hooliganism and fascism have gone hand in hand and have tarnished a sport which should build bridges between countries, races and communities within the world. Pele, Cruyff, Matthews, Best, Zidane and Beckham are heroes around the world because of their skills rather than their race. Great players are admired because of what they either could do or what they have achieved - and long may it continue.

Unfortunately, this week witnessed Emile Heskey being on the receiving end of Boavista fans' racist prejudices. For a country where Eusebio is a national hero, this is a very sad development. Moreover, there have been problems in other countries, particularly Italy where Lazio fans have an especially notorious reputation. In England, where the problem of racism has long been thought to have been overcome, it seems to be raising its ugly head again.

In the late seventies and early eighties, one extreme right organisation maintained an "arrest league table" of English football clubs. In short, glorifying the actions their political movement had kicked off. How very humorous, unless you had been a victim of a violent racist thug or a fan frightened to take friends or family to a game. Watford has been different because it has always encouraged fans to attend games irrespective of their origins, but this could be under threat.

The summer race riots in the north of England were in no small part caused by racist hooligan firms, stirring the pot. Allegations of Stoke fans joining in racist activities with their Oldham counterparts have been picked up by messageboards and the media.

Whether or not they were involved, a recent conversation with a Stoke fan confirmed that there is an element of their support which seeks confrontation with opposition teams' support. Indeed, he confirmed that "everybody" knew that something was going to kick off at Wigan, long before the game was to take place. Some fans used the Nazi straight arm salute to signal the start of the confrontation.

Moreover, this particular fan advised that away supporters should be wary of visiting the Britannia, because it seems that it is open season on particular clubs' supporters. Indeed, he expects that should Stoke get promoted this season, that the majority of away games will be all-ticket due to the behaviour of elements within their support.

Unfortunately, Watford, one of the most community-focused football clubs in the country, have not been unharmed by racists attaching themselves to the club. During the first game of the season, two Watford fans were arrested for racist chanting at Maine Road. After losing their court case, the two fans were banned by the club from attending Vicarage Road. A development welcomed by the majority of Watford's supporter base, keen to see the club's family reputation upheld.

However, a small minority of fans on one of the various messageboards were less than happy that the football club had taken such a strong lead against the convicted fans. For this minority, "the oppressed white working class male", such strong action was hard to stomach and Tim Shaw, the Watford CEO, was vilified for implementing Watford's anti-racist policy.

Furthermore, on the same messageboard, this week saw a brief discussion of a confrontation after the Luton v Rochdale game between fans and the local Asian community. The war in Afghanistan providing an excuse for a post-match attack on a community that unfortunately lives close to the ground and is consequently an easy target.

How did Watford fans pick up this news? Was it because of the internet that reports were picked up and analysed? Or, more disturbingly, did the "fans" involved in the activities actually include among their ranks some of the racist element of Watford's support? If so, is supporting Watford secondary to implementing their racist agenda?

If Watford supporters were involved in causing racial friction, this would be a worrying development. At a time when Watford's community officers are looking to attract local ethnic minority fans, all the club's good work could be undone by the bone-headed thugs of the far right.

Moreover, if the attack on Luton's Asian community is anything to go by, this could be the "green light" for other team's racist thugs to launch unprovoked attacks. With Vicarage Road being close to a large Asian community, this is a worrying development. This is something the majority of fair-minded fans should stand together to prevent happening.

For Watford fans who wish to uphold the club's good name and prevent the racist right using the club as an excuse to attack others who are different to themselves, now is the time to stand up and be counted. It is not just enough to wear the "Football against Racism" stickers once a year. If you sit near a racist who is abusing either players or other supporters, report them to a steward or police officer. If action isn't taken, make sure to note the seat number the racist is sitting in and notify the club about the individual's activities.

After all, we are a club which prides itself on its good name and its openness to all fans of whatever, creed, race or religion to watch a game in peace. For most fans, players like Luther Blissett and John Barnes are heroes, it is up to us as fans to make sure that future "Luthers" and "Johns" are at home at the Vic, both as players and spectators. Let's all work together to make sure that Watford upholds its deserved reputation as one of the country's leading community clubs and genuinely "kick out racism".