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The Weight of a Black Manager

by Fake Eric Cantona
Apr 26, 2014 10:18 PM EDT



This weekend saw the end of Clarence Seedorf's brilliant winning streak with Milan. 7 matches won, Milan were clicking on all cylinders. It took Roma to rattle AC Milan, and given the circumstances, one might wonder where AC Milan would be if Seedorf was able to guide them from the very start of the season.

Other than Clarence Seedorf, how many other black managers are currently active? Frank Rijkaard, who managed Barcelona to a Champions League victory, their first European Cup in 14 years, retired from managerial duties in March of 2014. Jean Tigana retired from managing in 2012. Paul Ince struggled managing Blackpool, and within a year, he resigned, in January 2014. There's Chris Hughton, whose Norwich team is the current punch bag of the Premier League, but he's on borrowed time.

Efforts to End Racism in Football Fall Short
In recent seasons, fans have seen racism in the form of Liverpool's Luis Suarez and Chelsea's John Terry. But racism from other players rare compared the the racism of the fans.

Kevin Prince Boateng left AC Milan last year because of racism. Samuel Eto'o faced extreme racism while playing for Barcelona against Zaragoza, where the chants and bananas throw at him caused him to leave the pitch. In discussing the effect of racism, Eto'o said "It is something that has affected me personally. I think players, leaders, and the media have to join forces so that no one feels looked down upon because of the color of their skin."

The leagues have placed signs calling an end to racism, but what have the teams really done to discourage racism? Well, they have placed signs around the pitch.

Equal Weight to Minority Applicants for Staff Positions
In the United States, there exists a "Rooney Rule" which dictates that professional American Rules Football teams must interview a minority candidate for each open coaching position. This rule makes sense when one considers that black athletes make up a significant part of the league.

In England, black professional athletes make up 30% of the Premier League. In a 20 team league, one might assume that this would translate to 30% of the managers being black as well, or 6.33 managers. There are, however, no minority managers in the Premier League, besides Chris Hughton. Even then, Chris Hughton may not be working much longer.

"There were five black managers in work across the Premier League, Football League and Conference Premier at the start of the season, but the departures of Paul Ince from Blackpool, Chris Kiwomya from Notts County, Edgar Davids from Barnet and Powell's exit have decreased that number to just Hughton."

According to Hughton, the problem is not that management does not want to hire black managers. "When we see something as a problem, we have to try and solve it and the best way is generally through education." By this thinking, one may reflect back to the stands at the Zaragoza match, where ignorant fans flung bananas and racial epithets at Eto'o, and wonder if education is even an option.

Seedorf's Job Outside of Milan Bill Be More Difficult Than Within
One thing on Seedorf's side, moving forward, is that the fans at Milan know that Seedorf is not simply a black manager, but a Milan legend who dedicated his best years to the club. However, the fans of opposing teams may not feel the same reverence for Seedorf. Those fans may seek any methods possible to rile Seedorf up and crack his psyche.

Seedorf is only the second black manager ever in the history of the Serie A. The first was Jarbas Faustinho, who managed Napoli between 1994-95. Seedorf has taken the reins of a Milan team that experienced Prince Boateng's departure on account of racism earlier in the season, as well as the racism experienced by Balotelli.

In such situations, the best thing that Seedorf can do for himself, and all black players and future managers, is to win at all costs. A fault of Rijkaard was that he tried to play beautiful football, and with Barcelona, that was possible, but not anywhere else.

Seedorf needs to take a note from the page of Mourinho, who was the last internationally successful manager in Europe. Park the bus when necessary. Attack when available. But most of all, win, and show teams that hiring a black manager is not more risky than hiring some unimaginative gaffer of a "safe" ethnicity.

And perhaps Hughton is right, that education is the real solution here. But how to educate fans - fans who are used to letting football bring out the worst in them? That's another problem that requires a complicated solution.