‘It was normal’: Liverpool legend speaks candidly about racist abuse during Merseyside derby with Everton

When John Barnes had a banana thrown at him when playing for Liverpool against Everton it became a huge story, but the star faced hate crimes ‘every single week’.
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Liverpool legend John Barnes gave a candid account of the racism he has faced in football as a player and a manager, including the moment a banana was thrown on the pitch during a Merseyside derby with Everton.

Barnes played over 400 times for Liverpool in a career filled with success that included two league titles and two FA Cup trophies. The striker scored 108 times for the side and was loved by The Kop, but still exposed to racial abuse at matches "every single week".

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Barnes spoke with Jermaine Defoe on the former Spurs man's Outside The Box podcast about his experiences with racism as Defoe prepares for a job in management.

Speaking about that meeting with Everton, Barnes said: "It was 1988, and a banana comes on the field and a lot is made of it. Bananas came on every single week, it was normal! They were coming on all the time.

"They came on all the time. Cyril Regis said you could open a corner shop with the amount of bananas coming on the field. Because it was a high-profile game the press made a big deal of it as if it was happening all the time.

"At Liverpool, they loved me. But if I hadn’t had played well, what would have happened?  Look at how many black players there are in the England side. There are no more now than when I played. So why do we pretend things are changing? It’s not changing."

John Barnes was prolific for Liverpool (Image: Getty Images)John Barnes was prolific for Liverpool (Image: Getty Images)
John Barnes was prolific for Liverpool (Image: Getty Images)
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Barnes went on to call for systemic change to racism, saying that whilst bans and fines were good in football, hate crimes would persist in the sport if not tackled away from the game.

He said: "You look around life and see what goes on. You can’t say we’ll get rid of racism. We’ll never get rid of it from football whilst it’s in all walks of society.

"We can’t say we’ll get rid of it in 90 mins on a Saturday if the other six days it’s a massive issue.  That’s not solving racism in the game. You have to fix society before you fix football. 

"The last two or three years - I won’t mention Brexit - but we have right wing people emboldened and empowering people to say what they want.

"You have a lot of white people saying, 'I thought we got rid of racism?'. I don’t know any black people who are surprised that racism is still here. Because of course it’s still here."

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