Black History Month - A conversation with Gareth Black
This month is Black History Month. Held annually every October, it is a month dedicated to honouring the triumphs and struggles of black people throughout history.
It’s important to celebrate Black History Month because the event is intended to recognise the contribution and achievements of those with African or Caribbean heritage. It's also an opportunity for people to learn more about the effects of racism and how to challenge negative stereotypes. Racism and negative stereotypes still very much exist present day and are a big problem in football and sports culture.
Gareth Black, a PE Teacher from Derby with football coaching experience with the likes of Littleover Dazzlers, discusses the ongoing issues of racism in football, why there is an underrepresentation of black coaches in the game, whether black players are supported enough, and what Black History Month means to him as a black coach.
Watch the video below for the full interview with Gareth Black or continue reading the article to read his answers to certain questions.
Q: What is your background in football & coaching?
“Hi, my names Gareth Black. I’m a P.E. Teacher, a football coach and soon to be, hopefully, referee. I’ve worked in Derby a lot with Littleover Dazzlers over the last 10 years or so. I played for them when I was quite younger and then went onto coaching. In terms of my footballing background and journey, I started playing football at quite the young age of eight. My first ever club was Field Lane, before then going to Littleover Dazzlers and then deferring to what we called the enemy, Chesapeake, at the time. I then played football all the way through from youth football to U20’s/U21’s, but unfortunately had really serious knee injuries. I’m three operations in already!”
Q: Why do you enjoy coaching and teaching?
“One of the main reasons I wanted to become a coach was because I had injuries but still wanted to be part of the game and part of football. I really enjoyed staying part of the environment and atmosphere with coaching. In terms of teaching, the main reason I got into teaching was because of an underrepresentation of black males in education. I really wanted to push myself to the forefront of that so I could be a role-model to those in and around me.”
Q: What has been your experience as a black player, coach, and teacher?
“My experience as a black player in football has been quite mixed. I have unfortunately experienced racism myself on a football pitch, both from officials and other players. As a coach and as a teacher, it’s been quite positive. I get a lot of positive feedback. I find a way of connecting with those who are in and around me and in a similar ethnicity group to myself. Like I said, just really giving them a platform to express themselves.”
Q: Do you think there’s an under-representation of black coaches in football, and if so, why?
“Personally, in the grassroots level, especially in and around Derby, I do think the representation of black coaches is improving. It’s getting a lot better. I know down at Redwood Colts they’ve got Warren down there, who’s done some great work with them. I think raising the profile of the number of people of ethnic minority in coaching is really good, but when we do then go up a level to semi-pro and elite levels, I think there is an underrepresentation. It may be down to aspiration, but I also think, in terms of just being able to access those different environments that you can progress yourself in, it’s always been quite difficult.”
Q: How do we encourage people from diverse backgrounds to get involved in grassroots football?
“So, for myself, I try to encourage all of those around me to take part in grassroots football, especially those from diverse backgrounds, because I do think it teaches you soft skills that you don’t always get, maybe in a classroom or from your parents, like teamwork, communication and just getting along with people from different environments. When I coached for Littleover Dazzlers, I prided myself in having a really diverse group of players and really integrating them, so they were all together. So we used to celebrate things like Diwali, Black History Month, but also Christmas as well, collectively.
Q: How well do you think black players are supported in the game?
“In terms of grassroots, I think that black players are supported massively. Especially nowadays, when instances of racism happen, coaches, players, parents are really on top of it. Mentioning an example of my son being racially abused quite recently and his club have been really supportive to him, and also myself, and making sure it’s been reported in the right channels. When you then go to the elite level, I think there is the added influence of social media, which does affect the way that black people are supported through the game.”
Q: What are your thoughts on the issues of racism which still exist in the game today?
“It is sad that racism still exists in the game. It’s something which shouldn’t happen at all. When you look at the elite level and you look at England over the EURO’s, the fact that, I’d say, 40% of the squad were of ethnic minority and were really a driving force in the group of players that got them to that final. Just because they missed a penalty, they were ridiculed, and racist remarks were posted online. It says to me that it still exists. It’s still there at all levels, as I said with my son recently experiencing it. It is still there and it’s upsetting to see that it is still there, and we’ve not developed and moved with the times how the world is going at the moment.”
Q: Do you think social media platforms need to do more to prevent racial online abuse?
“I do think social media has a massive impact and they’ve got to do more to help prevent racism online. Quite recently we’ve seen the incident with Ivan Toney, where he was called a lot of racist names online and Meta turned around and said that because it wasn’t reported in the right way, they can’t do anything about it. For me, that’s disgraceful because it’s racism at the end of the day. It’s a hate crime and as we know, it’s a criminal offence. So, these social media platforms need to be doing more to stop these people online. It’s only a small minority but I find that the way social media gets blown up really quickly and then everybody knows about it within a couple of hours, then brings adverse attention to it as well from people who maybe agree with comments like that. For me, they’ve got to be punished. There needs to be a way of them identifying quickly who said that comment and how to punish them appropriately.”
Q: How important is it to recognise and celebrate the successes of black people for Black History Month?
“As an educator, I think it’s massively important that we celebrate and highlight Black History Month. Not only during this month but throughout the whole year. I know at the school I work at, we’ve had lots of guest speakers in quite recently, people of all different walks of life, to really inspire the children. To show children of colour, but all children, that there are role models in every single ethnic minority who do really successful work, and we can promote that success that is happening in and around, so for me, it’s massive.”