England fans group Apna England say they will help Yan Dhanda turn his Instagram racist abuse ordeal into a positive for British South Asians in the game.
Apna England, formed in 2019, lead an alliance of 10 South Asian-led supporters groups across all four divisions, who are pledging to redouble their inclusion efforts within their local communities after former England U17 international Dhanda was sent a racist Instagram direct message following Swansea’s FA Cup tie with Manchester City last week.
Facebook said the culprit will only be temporarily blocked from sending Instagram messages and will not have their account shut down, adding “we think it’s important people have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes.” South Wales Police are investigating.
Apna England are joined by Villans Together and Punjabi Villans (Aston Villa), Punjabi Whites (Leeds United), BAME Hammers (West Ham), Blues 4 All and Punjabi Blues (Birmingham City), Exiles Together (Newport County), Apna Albion (West Bromwich Albion), and the Punjabi Rams (Derby County).
Apna England spokesperson Shin Aujla told Sky Sports News: “It’s very disappointing that we’re still having this conversation. Facebook should take stronger action against online discrimination.
“Yan is a role model within the South Asian community, breaking through at the West Brom academy, representing England at youth level before signing for one of the biggest clubs in the world at Liverpool.
“Apna England, the football family, and our affiliated supporters groups up and down the country stand together in the fight against racism and we stand with Yan.
“We also support all measures to tackle discrimination as well as the wider issue of diversity in football in the hope that we see a World Cup-winning England team that is truly reflective of the diversity that exists in this great country. Who knows? Yan Dhanda may one day even be a part of that team.
“It is important we come together individually and collectively, redouble our inclusion efforts and turn this negative into a positive for England teams of the future and for British South Asians in football as a whole.”
Ealing Southall MP Virendra Sharma told Sky Sports News last week that social media bosses must go further to ensure their platforms are not “a breeding ground for racism and hate”.
Fellow British-Punjabi MP Tan Dhesi added: “Such racism is sadly all too common and a grim reminder of the challenges faced by British South Asian players like Yan Dhanda, but the authorities are just not taking the issue seriously enough.”
Facebook’s decision also shocked the winger’s club Swansea, who issued a statement they say is backed by the English Football League (EFL).
The statement said: “Swansea City is shocked and surprised by the leniency shown by Facebook towards one of their users who racially abused a member of our playing squad.
“The abhorrent level of abuse that we have witnessed this week means that once again we seek stronger action from social media companies in order to stamp this type of toxic behaviour out and we fully back the EFL’s open letter that was sent to Twitter and Facebook in light of recent events.
“It is appalling that Facebook cannot empathise more with the victim of such offensive messages and Yan Dhanda continues to have our full support at the football club as we work with South Wales Police to assist in their ongoing investigation.”
English football bodies came together last week to send an open letter to Facebook and Twitter demanding action amid increased levels of abuse aimed at footballers and officials on social media.
The Premier League, FA, EFL, WSL, Women’s Championship, PFA, LMA, PGMOL and Kick It Out all co-signed the letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook founder, chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerburg, asking them “for reasons of basic human decency” to use the power of their systems to end the abuse.
In response to the letter, a Facebook company spokesperson said: “The new measures we announced yesterday [Wednesday], which include tougher action when we become aware of people breaking our rules in DMs (direct messages), further build on the work we do to tackle this.
“We are part of the working group convened by Kick it Out and will continue to work alongside all the industry bodies, the police and the Government to help tackle racism both on and offline.”
Benning “taken aback” by Dhanda abuse
Dhanda, 22, responded to the racist abuse last week by writing on Twitter: “How can this STILL be happening in 2021? I’m so proud of who I am and representing Asians. More has to be done!#NOTORACISM”.
Mansfield Town defender Mal Benning told Sky Sports News he was stunned by the abuse received by fellow British-Punjabi footballer Dhanda.
Manchester United’s Axel Tuanzebe, Manchester United Women’s Lauren James, and Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger and Reece James are among the players who have been racially abused on social media in recent weeks.
Benning himself was the subject of racist abuse on Twitter in January of last year,
He told Sky Sports News: “Obviously I’ve seen recently that Tuanzebe and (Marcus) Rashford have been abused, and it’s even been happening in the women’s game.
“But then when I saw that Yan Dhanda had been abused, I was quite taken aback by it. They (Swansea) were playing on a big platform against Manchester City in the FA Cup and there aren’t many Asians in the game.
“I’ve reached out to Yan and he’s alright. There aren’t many of us South Asians in the game and I don’t want it to discourage any young South Asians from getting into the game because they think that’s what it’s like.
“It’s obviously a small minority but also it’s quite disgusting to see it happen as well and everyone wants to see it stamped out as soon as possible.”
Kick It Out reporting racism
Kick It Out is football’s equality and inclusion organisation – working throughout the football, educational and community sectors to challenge discrimination, encourage inclusive practices and campaign for positive change. www.kickitout.org
British South Asians in Football
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