As Supporters, We Have A Duty To Confront And Report Racism
As it happens, Rico Quitongo seems like a thoroughly decent young man. He's a talented, hard-working player who empties himself on the park win, lose or draw.
He happens to have been the sort to stop for photos with youngsters, to engage merrily with the Club media channel and to serve as an exemplary ambassador for his Club on and off the field.
None of this matters. Rico Quitongo could be the laziest, most shiftless player ever to wear the Diamond. He could be a grumpy, difficult presence in the changing room who has no time for the supporters or their children. He could be the sort to avoid Club media interviews like the plague.
It's irrelevant. There is nothing Rico Quitongo could do that would justify the racial abuse he suffered at Firhill on Saturday 11th September. There is no performance so poor, no effort so lacking, no manner so rude, that can justify this despicable, abhorrent and cowardly act of evil.
I understand the desire of every right thinking Airdrie supporter to distance ourselves from this, to quite rightly condemn the individual responsible and to argue, as you always hear in the far too common examples of such instances, that this utter moron is not an Airdrie fan.
You hear it all the time. 'These are not X Club fans'. 'These are not football fans'. The reality is that they are fans of that club. They are football fans.
This contemptible, knuckle-dragging weapon didn't wander into Firhill by accident. They didn't stumble into the Airdrie end purely by chance and they didn't happen upon a game of football whilst on the hunt for a spot cricket.
They went to a football game, to watch Airdrie away to Queens Park. There's a good chance they hold a season ticket. There's a good chance they watch Champions League games and International games and EPL games. They probably catch the odd episode of Sportscene and Match Of The Day. They like football and they like Airdrie. They might have listened to the OTL Podcast, posted on the fan Facebook pages or on sites like Pie & Bovril.
It's too easy to argue that they are not football fans. I appreciate and understand the desire to disown such utter pellets, but you cannot disown those who never belonged to your group in the first place. We mustn't pretend that no football fans have these views, that no football fans throw this abuse about without a care. They are a part of football; a cancerous part, but a part nonetheless. Accept the problem first and foremost, if we are going to make further headway in treating it.
This dribbling buffoon is an Airdrie fan, then, but I think it's more than mere semantics to argue that they are not an Airdrie supporter.
You aren't supporting your club when you hurl racist abuse at a player on either side. The club don't want that. That's not part of their aims, not one of their goals, not on their agenda. You're not supporting the players, any of the players, when you subject their teammate or one of their fellow professionals to such vile poison. You're not supporting the rest of the Airdrie support, who are ashamed, angry and appalled. We supporters are seeing our reputation tarnished by association with your pathetic, malicious immorality.
You're an embarrassment and you ought to be ashamed of yourself.
Undoubtedly, that sort of talk will fall on deaf ears. This chuntering goon couldn't care less what I think. They're not bothered about the stain they have splashed upon the support and the club. They don't care that Scottish football, football in general, is all the poorer for their mask-slipping moment. Worst of all, they clearly do not care about how Rico Quitongo will have felt, and will still feel. That means nothing to this imbecile.
We can hope that the investigation turns up the culprit and Airdrieonians have already declared that a lifetime ban will be the punishment for anyone who uses racist language.
The hard, uncomfortable reality, though, is that Airdrie supporters, supporters of all teams, need to step up to the mark. We cannot tolerate the intolerable. We cannot cross our fingers and hope it goes away. On that basis, I need to have the courage of my convictions as an individual. I need to confront it should I hear it in a stand. I need to report it to stewards or officials.
Supporters have that duty. We don't need to necessarily confront it there and then, if we feel this could escalate into something dangerous. We don't need to put ourselves, our friends or our families in a dangerous position. That cannot be an excuse to do nothing. The club have given an email address for anyone who wishes to report such instances directly to them-
We can do that in the strictest of confidence.
We can confront and report racism. We must confront and report racism.
Let's get behind Rico Quitongo on Saturday 18th, in the home match with East Fife. Let's show him who we are as supporters. Let's be vigilant, self-policing and observant. Let's be brave.
There Can Be No Excuse.