Lakenheath winger Kelvin Enaro opens up on his experience of racism in non-league football
Twenty-five days have passed since the death of George Floyd.
Floyd was an African-American man who died at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis. The officer in question – Derek Chauvin – was seen in a video kneeling on the 46-year-old’s neck for almost nine minutes.
The death of Floyd, who had been arrested for allegedly using counterfeit money, has resonated worldwide, drawing hundreds of thousands of demonstrators into the streets of the biggest cities.
And the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement has subsequently had a huge impact on all walks of life, with football is no exception.
England and Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling has spoken eloquently and strongly on the subject, recently highlighting a lack of former black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) players being given a chance to cut their teeth in management.
But what about non-league football? How prevalent is racism, and what can be done to improve it?
Sadly but perhaps depressingly predictably, Lakenheath winger Kelvin Enaro has been the victim of racist abuse more times than he cares to remember.
It has come from the terraces rather than out on the pitch, and the ex-Mildenhall Town, Newmarket Town and Ely City player believes a generational issue is at play.
“You hear it from supporters at times, but I don’t recall it being directed at me from another player,” he said.
“I am not saying it doesn’t exist among younger people because it does, but it does tend to be from the older generation.
“Younger people are more aware of what is acceptable these days and perhaps others don’t understand how it works now.
“It mentally affects you obviously – in a big way. You try not to show emotion or to react, but your mind wants you to react erratically.
“I have seen some people react aggressively and I completely understand that, but I try to keep my composure. I don’t agree with violence.”
And there is one incident that sticks vividly in Enaro’s mind.
He continued: “I was playing against Heybridge in the FA Cup for Haverhill and when I got on the ball a section of their fans were using the n-word.
“What made it even worse was that they stood right next to my partner and there is nothing she could do – it was horrible.”
Despite being encouraged to do so, Enaro chose not to report that incident, nor any of the other occasions he has been on the receiving end.
It begs the question, why not? Why would you not want to see these people punished?
Enaro replied: “You ask a lot of black people why they haven’t reported it and my guess is it would be for the same reason – other people thinking ‘here we go again’.
“They’ll say you’re just playing the race card again but these are people that have never been on the receiving end of it.
“That sort of attitude – knowing you will not be believed – kills your motivation to speak out.
“I’ve not spoken on social media or anywhere about the protests that have been going on for that reason.”
With racism currently driving the agenda on front and back pages, on television news bulletins and trending on social media, the challenge now is how can things improve?
Enaro is confident racism is no longer as rife as it once was in the non-league game, but there is still a distance to go.
“It has improved in non-league football over the years, but there is more that can be done,” said the Nigerian.
“Ultimately it is about education. The FA should be coming into clubs once or twice a year and give talks, explain why these things should not be happening in 2020. The importance of knowledge is crucial.
“It is the same in society. Until people looked it up on the internet or read about it on social media, they had no idea about the statues that have been pulled down. They should be taught about these people, and why what they did was wrong.
“Education is the only way forward. In football, everyone would benefit from it.”