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Best: 'Beautiful Game' can transcend society's ills

By Clyde Best, Special for CNN
February 25, 2012 -- Updated 1513 GMT (2313 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Clyde Best is known as one of the first black players to establish himself in England
  • Best was a striker who played for West Ham United between 1968-1976
  • He says racism in sport is for "the ignorant and the inebriated"
  • Best argues that football is the "Beautiful Game" and it should be enjoyed and respected

Editor's note: Clyde Best led the emergence of black players in English football when he became a regular at West Ham in the 1970s, and was awarded an MBE for services to the sport in the UK's 2006 Queen's Honors list. Born in Bermuda, he also played in the Netherlands and North America. His book about his football journey is due to be released in mid-2012 and he features in CNN's documentary about racism in football: "It's Not Black & White."

(CNN) -- The global appeal of football can hardly be doubted. It is said the membership of ruling body FIFA exceeds that of the number of member countries in the United Nations.

Furthermore, football is attributed the status of being one of only two entities that are truly global languages. Music is the other. The passion of this sport has been known to halt armed conflicts and to unite rivals, all for the good of the "Beautiful Game."

I venture that there is nothing within the sphere of the human social arena that can transcend or perhaps even challenge the passion and fixation associated with this truly global sport.

Former footballer Clyde Best
Former footballer Clyde Best

More than a kick in the universal grass, football is a script that translates without interpretation, that amends without severe changes, that entertains an informed audience, and pleasures even the most casual and naive observer merely through its grace and simplicity.

Aside from its widespread appeal and acceptability, football provides opportunities for personal development, social exposure and travel. It is a tool for product marketing and even tourism. It is participatory with no regard to social and economic status.

Football racism: Not Black & White act 1

The impact of this great and wonderful sport is evidenced in the excitement of the pauper and through the accolades from the palaces of the royal fans.

Football racism: Not Black & White act 2

It is because of all these things, and more, that the "Beautiful Game" deserves to be respected, preserved and immortalized.

Football racism: Not Black & White act 3

Arguably those players and administrators who have emerged as notables should be lionized; some may even revere them as icons and deified gods.

Football racism: Not Black & White act 4

I will not lend myself to such lofty thinking. I am a mere lover of the "Beautiful Game" -- one who has trotted through the athletic portals and has been blessed to perform on its many green expanses.

Football racism: Not Black & White act 5

Discipline is integral to successfully achieving in this sport. Discipline to get there, discipline to maintain your performance, and discipline to sustain your humbleness as the benefits accrue.

Football racism: Not Black & White act 6

There is even the element of self-discipline to accept when your role alters, and to accept that neither you nor anyone else is bigger than the "Game."

Challenges have always been present in this sport, and although some have mutated over time as the game became more global, others remain problematic.

Perhaps it is symptomatic of modern society that despite the diversity of practitioners and the potpourri of fans, the ugliness of racism seeps through. Is it so ominous that we should shudder in fear?

Is it so idiotic that we can attempt to minimize it by not diverting great resources towards its eradication? After all it is only the ignorant and the inebriated that dare spoil this pristine scene.

I offer this explanation: The "Beautiful Game" is not immune from the variances and the often pejorative behaviors that inculcate the minds of many in our community.

The same unpredictability that causes people to riot at an event celebrating Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. -- the same mob mentality that sends fans crashing and burning all in their paths after their favorite team has triumphed in some distinguished competition -- is the same uncontrollable factor that leads to much of the racial abuse.

We can do much in terms of our formal response. We can be infinitely creative in proactive initiatives. However, what has never been done -- and what will never be accomplished -- is to legislate an attitude.

The hallowed sanctums of the "Beautiful Game" will survive because it is the "Beautiful Game." It is neither the cause nor the panacea of society's ills. It is an avenue that has shown that it offers resiliency and relief come what may. Respect it, enjoy it and it serves us well.

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