'Opposition Fans Spat On Me Because I Was Black. Education Holds Key To Inspiring Change'

In an exclusive column for evertonfc.com, Victor Anichebe reveals the horrendous abuse he was subjected to during a European game, why the Black Lives Matter protests in Liverpool made him proud of the city, and the 'systemic action' that must be taken to eradicate racism...

One of the worst experiences of racism I have ever received was in an away Europa League game when I was at Everton. It was terrible.

We were walking around the stadium and some of the opposition supporters were spitting all over me.

The people who were walking with us put umbrellas up to shield the players.

Some fans were throwing bananas, too. I just felt sorry for those people – to have so much hate eating you up inside.

I scored in the match. But it’s not enough that a black player can score a goal to answer back to those people. What does that even mean?

It’s more than sport. They need to be educated if real change is going to happen.

My mum and dad both experienced racism, too. My mum had it a lot in the workplace, where she worked as a nurse.

And I remember an incident my dad told me about.

He likes to go on long walks and, as he was walking, somebody threw white paint over him from a top window in a house. They then started hurling abuse at him.

He just laughed it off and said, ‘These people are so pathetic'.

My parents just don’t have that hate for other people and that’s where I get that attitude from.

My family didn’t grow up with any anger, even though the things people did could warrant that emotion.

You look at Anthony Walker’s mother. I’ve watched a few of her interviews and she doesn’t have hate inside of her, even after such an atrocious thing happened.

How she spoke, with such grace, taught me a lot about forgiveness.

Ever since George Floyd’s murder, I’ve started looking back at things that I’ve experienced, and a whole wave of emotions have come back.

You think to yourself, how is this still happening in 2020?

And while I have suffered racial abuse, I haven’t experienced it half as bad as other people – not even close.

The reason for that is, while racism is such a big thing, classism is, too.

Because people see me as an athlete, a professional footballer with that status or a bit of money, sometimes we won’t get the same kind of treatment as others.

Society puts you in a different class – ‘You’re okay, but the other black people are not okay’. No, that’s not acceptable.

Racism needs to be called out in football games.

If someone is being racist, they need to be reported and that can be done anonymously.

People can take pictures or videos of the offenders and action needs to be taken. It’s the same for people who make racist comments online.

I think educating people is so much more important than banning them. And if they fail to show willingness to be educated, then ban them.

Because if you just ban someone, they will continue to have that hate inside them – ‘I’ve got banned because of this black person’.

I want to give people another chance. We should try to educate them and understand why they have that hate and let them know it’s not okay.

I think players get more support now and have more of a voice to talk about these issues.

People are not afraid to speak out.

You look at Raheem Sterling, and he’s using his voice as a platform to discuss these problems – the same with Marcus Rashford. That’s giving other people the confidence to talk, too.

There will be other young black players who are going to experience the same things if these issues aren’t brought to light.

If we come together then change can happen.

A lot of people might say, ‘I’m not racist’, but they don’t speak up about abuse when they see it in front of their eyes.

But I think over the past few months, things have been different. Things are changing.

I went to the Black Lives Matter marches in Liverpool. It was great to see such a diverse crowd there – people from many different backgrounds and nationalities.

I was really proud of Liverpool when I went.

I didn’t think the turnout would be like that. It shows people are together.

But what’s the end goal now? What are we pushing towards?

In society, we need to figure out ways to make systematic changes, or we’ll lose momentum.

We need equal opportunities for black people. In football, there are so many senior roles available that could be filled by black people.

It’s something I’ve always wanted to do – go into those positions - to have a seat at the table.

The events of the last couple of months have prompted me to sit up and look at it more seriously.

I’m doing some courses now focused on expanding my skills that could help me get into those roles.

I know James Vaughan and Joleon Lescott are also looking to take courses like that, too. It’s up to us to take action.

It’s important that racism is being covered in the sports pages in newspapers and on television sports bulletins.

Some people might say, ‘I’m sick and tired of this racism stuff’. How do you think we feel as black people? We’ve had it our whole lives.

We can’t say, if people are uncomfortable with stories about racism, we won’t talk about this anymore.

The conversation has to continue, in football and outside of football.

The issues are so deep and the education must go on.