Nick Lowles introduces the latest in our Heroes series – on the Heroes of the Terraces who have used football to take a stand against division and hate, in the game and in society.
Welcome to Heroes of the Terraces: Football, anti-fascism and protest, the third in our Heroes series. Like the previous two, Heroes of the Resistance and Heroes of the Civil Rights Movement, this special magazine remembers and celebrates all those who have stood up to racism, fascism and prejudice –with this edition focused on football around the world over the last 100 years.
Heroes of the Terraces recounts the players, supporters and clubs that have fought bigotry on and off the pitch. We tell the stories of those clubs that have antifascism running through their DNA. We remember how fascist and authoritarian regimes have tried to use football to win support for their murderous regimes and how players and supporters, often at huge personal risk, refused to obey. We recount how football triggered wars, but also helped heal conflicts. We celebrate excellent anti-racist fan initiatives and explore how football fans have been at the centre of many popular uprisings in recent years. And, most poignantly for today, we applaud the current crop of players who are backing or even leading social justice campaigns.
This magazine comes out shortly after the failed attempts to create a European Super League and the end of Euro 2020, which once again demonstrated the strength of player and fan power. The billionaire owners of the richest clubs were humiliated in a fan uprising and the England team refused to bow to the pressure of politicians and Government ministers who objected to them taking the knee. The British public reacted to the racists who abused the three black England players who missed penalties with an outpouring of defiance and solidarity.
Racism continues to blight football. It causes misery for its targets and robs joy from those who fear being targeted. Sadly, opposing racism remains an uphill struggle, with those who speak out often targeted, abused and even punished.
But at the same time, football has the potential to create real change and this is what we’ve tried to capture in Heroes of the Terraces through retelling stories of people standing up to racists, offering solidarity to those targeted or using their collective strength to demand change.
The Heroes series is our way to remember and recognise those who campaigned and fought for equality and against extremism across the world. It is also designed to inspire us to continue the struggle in the future.
We hope you enjoy this publication as much as we enjoyed writing it.
In Heroes of the Resistance, which recounted the stories of those who stood up to the Nazis in WW2, we wrote “we remember their bravery in order to honour them. While we mourn humanity at its worst, we also celebrate humanity at its very best.” This is as true about those standing up to racism, fascism and prejudice in football as it was for those fighting fascism in World War Two.
We salute all those who take a stand against racism and fascism and promise to continue the fight for HOPE over hate. We hope you will join us in our quest.