Brighton and Hove Albion's Leon Balogun and Victoria Williams have encouraged school children taking part in an anti-racism event to have the confidence to tackle discrimination and to support any friends who may be experiencing racism.
Balogun and Williams spoke to 100 pupils at the education event organised by Albion in the Community and the UK’s largest anti-racism educational charity, Show Racism the Red Card.
Pupils were then given the chance to ask Balogun and Williams about their experience of racism and, importantly, what more can be done to tackle it.
Both players were impressed by how the young people approached the topic but stressed that while awareness days were important in the fight against racism, they should be used as a way of starting a conversation with young people, rather than a one-off.
Balogun said: “There were some brilliant questions. I think even though I might have faced racism by their age a lot more than they told us they had, I wouldn’t have been able to ask those type of questions, so that was very good.
“At a young age you don’t really think about what you are doing. You might think something is banter or fun but you never really thinking about the person and how it affects them. The sooner someone can realise how their actions can affect another person’s life, the better.”
Williams agreed, adding: “They asked us how it makes us feel on the pitch but you have to think about how it may shape their personality growing up if they experience it at their age, and how much of an impact that can have on someone’s life overall.
“That’s why it is important to keep educating them. The kids have the power to change the way the world sees colour. If you empower them, naturally they will take on that responsibility, that’s the kind of generation which is coming through now.”
It is an opinion shared by Albion in the Community and Show Racism the Red Card, the latter of which works with football charities across the UK to regularly promote the importance of tolerance and to oppose discrimination. Last season the charity worked with 40 football clubs across England to deliver anti-racism workshops to young people.
Albion in the Community holds regular anti-racism workshops with its participants and a series of anti-discrimination days are planned for local secondary schools. Young people at the charity’s free football sessions are also given guidance and support focusing on racism and other forms of discrimination.
Saturday’s Brighton & Hove Albion home game with Everton also saw the Albion promote the Premier League’s No Room for Racism campaign.
Balogun and Williams are now both keen to continue working with Albion in the Community to tackle discrimination. Balogun said: “My father was a role model to me, and I am in a position now where I can maybe encourage some kids to realise that they have a voice.”