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Who cares if English football isn't ready for Emma Hayes?

Thursday 30th May 2019
Emma Hayes Chelsea Ios Dan Whelan

Football is not baseball but bigotry is bigotry. I write this having read my colleague Dan Whelan’s opinion on Emma Hayes’ interest in managing the Chelsea men’s team. Understand that I don’t consider Dan to be a bigot. Far from it. The problem is he has too much patience with them. 

People who hate do not, as a general rule, come to a revelation at some point in their insecure existence that they have been horribly wrong in their beliefs. Too often, they're proud of their ugliness even when you shove the mirror of truth in their faces.

In World War II, thousands of coloured American soldiers gave their lives to fight the bigotry of anti-Semitism. Those who came home returned not to a hero’s welcome but to the same prejudices and segregation they left behind. In fact, they fought under those conditions.

Branch Rickey, owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team, elected to do something about it. He scoured the Negro Leagues for the right candidate, choosing Jackie Robinson to break the colour line in the game in 1947.

Everywhere he went, the second-baseman endured racism. From the stands. From the opposing dugout. In the team hotel. He held his temper, kept his dignity, letting his bat and glove do the talking. Robinson performed so well, he was named the National League Most Valuable Player.

Today, no player in the majors can wear the No.42. Not just on the Dodgers. The number was retired throughout the major leagues in recognition of Jackie's achievement.

It took another decade-and-a-half for the Civil Rights movement to arrive, a half-century for America to elect a black president. Even after Barack Obama was re-elected, racism didn’t go away. In fact, the backlash has been incredible. Bigotry flexes its muscle not just in the US but around the world.

Theresa May can attest to that. The Prime Minister resigned recently, in tears, unable to deliver the Brexit deal she promised. Liberals mocked her weeping. Fellow Tories, aka rich, insecure white men in suits, gloated.

Were May and Obama proof that women and minorities aren’t fit to govern? Of course not. They’re just proof that the battle for peace and unity must be fought every day.

In the same vein, Emma Hayes’ gender doesn’t disqualify her from taking the reins of the men’s team at Stamford Bridge. Male fans may protest on social media. Let them. The squad may rebel against her like they did with Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte. Let them try.

She will either put them in their place or fail. If she cries when she is sacked, let her. If it sets back female opportunities in the game for decades, so be it. Waiting for it to be easy before undertaking any challenge is giving up, plain and simple. It will never be easy. The battles worth fighting are the most difficult.

Ask any baseball fan who the first coloured player in the majors was. Invariably, they’ll tell you it was Jackie Robinson. Not by a long shot. Moses Fleetwood Walker and Weldy Walker played for Toledo 60 years earlier. Their presence, as well as other black players, led to the so-called Gentlemen’s Agreement that Robinson’s arrival finally ended.

The Dodgers legend succeeded only because he had the courage, fire and determination to do so. If Emma Hayes shares that passion and will, she should move from the Chelsea women’s team to the men’s assuming Roman Abramovich's right hand, Marina Granovskaia has the stones to appoint her. Hayes' CV boasts more than enough trophies to warrant the opportunity. It may come as a shock to some but tactical nous doesn’t come out of your penis.

The white male majority who support football might not like seeing her shouting instructions from the technical area. Too bad. They can get on their bikes.

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Martin Palazzotto

The former editor of World Football Columns, Martin authored the short story collection strange bOUnce. He appeared in several other blogs which no longer exist. Old, he likes to bring out defunct. If outdated sport and pop-cultural references intrude on his meanderings for It's Round and It's White, don't be alarmed. He's harmless.

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