Rangers star Glen Kamara might be a laidback and unassuming member of the Ibrox squad, but the Finnish international has shown huge courage to lead an important international conversation about racism.
Kamara, 25, didn’t ask to be cast into the limelight after Slavia Prague defender Ondrej Kudela racially abused him in the Europa League tie at Ibrox last month.
Indeed – and obviously not that any individual ever deserves the treatment Kamara received – the ex-Arsenal kid’s nature makes any abuse towards him unfathomable for his friends and teammates.
But after the incident garnered global attention – and in a season where the conversation over racism has taken centre stage in sport – Kamara has risen to the situation with class and aplomb.
Racism anywhere is unacceptable. Any form of discrimination is unacceptable. That’s the bottom line.
And yet – alongside so many of his Rangers teammates – Kamara has had to suffer the indignation of racist abuse online and on the pitch as calls for real change get louder.
Our players – many of them defiant amid initial ignorance to taking the knee as football resumed in the summer – will not be silent on this issue any longer.
Given that platform by a football club in Rangers who are desperately striving for change in this regard, the club are using their status to elevate their players’ voices rather than silence them.
Conversely, the conduct of Slavia Prague throughout this has reduced this important conversation to conspiracy theories and the disgraceful reality of daily, ever-intensifying racist abuse aimed at Glen Kamara and Kemar Roofe.
Roofe’s admittedly mistimed but completely undeliberate challenge on Czech goalkeeper Ondrej Kolar is apparently some level of justification for the abuse; it’s the big story according to Slavia.
Not only that, but the club have outright failed to recognise Kamara’s complaints – which are backed up by teammate Bongani Zungu – and have helped foster a culture of victimhood in their support.
Kamara is also accused of assaulting his abuser Ondrej Kudela – something described as “fantasy” by the Rangers camp – and has been the victim of genuinely heart-breaking abuse in the aftermath which has boiled the blood of thousands.
But still Kamara stands, refusing to back down to the intimidation of Slavia, their panicking statements, or the threat of a UEFA investigation into the assault allegations.
Still Kamara continues to lead this discussion, the Rangers midfielder’s courage evident as he spoke about the incident in the Ibrox dressing room with ITN journalist Peter Smith.
What balls Glen, mate.
This incident has shot a lightning bolt through football in general but the aggressive nature with which Rangers have refused to back down is something which breaks from convention on these matters in sport.
Across Europe in Spain, Valencia are taking similar tact as they look to defend one of their players after their team walked from the pitch following an incidence of racist abuse over the weekend.
I’m proud of Rangers for how they’ve approached this issue – the Ibrox club has routinely been fair game for unfair coverage in this regard but the Gers Family is not without its own problems.
The message from Rangers is clear – racism, sectarianism, and discrimination is never acceptable. Everyone, Anyone.
The reaction of the support – the overwhelming backing of the fans – highlights just how hungry Rangers fans are for change in this regard too, how much they’re hurting for their heroes.
Kamara’s position in that dressing room, with oak panels, Rangers top and an audience of millions was a sign of the club’s respect for its identity but also its determination to drive towards a brighter future. A modern Rangers Football Club in every sense of the word.
But whilst Rangers’ reaction deserves credit, I personally reserve most of my pride in this situation to the players who’ve spoken out, and most pertinently, the courage of Glen Kamara.
A guy who goes about his business quietly, a player of immense talent who is now getting the credit he deserves, but someone who quite simply does not have to front this universal issue in the way he has done.
And that’s the big thing, he has fronted it. He’s puffed his chest out and isn’t backing down.
‘I feel like I need to tell my story’
Speaking exclusively to @itvnews Scotland Correspondent @PeterAdamSmith, Kamara said he was speaking out now due to the online abuse he has continued to receive since the incident https://t.co/ezyQQ3nFpw pic.twitter.com/LDS7EXPRlx
— ITV News (@itvnews) April 7, 2021
In that ITN interview, Kamara brought the situation right back down to Earth, detailing the cold, harsh reality of racism.
“I felt humiliated. All my family, friends, fans, whoever is watching, I felt like a little boy,” said the midfielder.
Well, we’re all watching you now Glen, and we couldn’t be prouder of the man we see.
Rangers fans have always thrown their support behind Glen Kamara and the Rangers squad and done so once again as they hijacked an official UEFA poll involving the Czech outfit.