RICHARD Offiong is proud to be involved with the fight against racism.
The footballer has been working with the Show Racism the Red Card and Kick It Out campaigns, and believes educating young people is the best way to tackle the problem.
“I don’t believe anyone is born a racist,” he said. “I think it is something you pick up as you get older, and has a lot to do with how you grow up.
“That’s why it is important to educate young people about racism, and why it isn’t acceptable.”
Offiong has being doing just that along with former Sunderland player Gary Bennett.
“I have been really lucky to be able to go into local schools with Gary, who is a Sunderland legend, to talk the pupils.
“We have been able to tell them about our experiences of racism, and the damage it can do.
“It is something I believe very strongly in, and something I am passionate about, so it’s been fantastic to get out there and talk to young people about it.
“Hopefully, if we can get the message through at an early age that racism isn’t OK then that will stick with them as they grow older. They will then pass the same message on to their kids.”
Sadly, Offiong is all too familiar with racism, while his own experiences haven’t been the same as Bennett, who was playing his football during the 1980s when the problem is rife, he has nevertheless had to confront the problem.
While playing for Blyth Spartans, the striker reported a Colwyn Bay opponent for making racist remarks towards him.
Despite a Blyth team-mate overhearing the remarks, it was ruled there was insufficient evidence to take any action, but Offiong knows he made the right decision.
“It was something I had to do,” he said. “What he said didn’t hurt me because I am a strong person, but what if the next person he said something to wasn’t.
“I had to speak out not for me, but for others.
“I respect Stan Collymore for what he has done. He has received lots of abuse on Twitter and the internet, and he reported it. That has led to people being prosecuted.
“People have to be made aware that racism isn’t acceptable and that if you abuse someone in public or on social media sites, you will be dealt with by the police and the courts.
“I know we have had a few high profile cases recently, but I still think we are leading the way in the fight against racism.
“We have moved on from the dark days of the 1980s when racism was rife, but it is still there and we have to keep fighting to eradicate it.”