Yesterday I interviewed West Ham goalkeeper Shaka Hislop. We mainly talked about his work for Show Racism the Red Card, an organisation which sends footballers into schools to educate kids about racism and asylum seekers. Hislop says he hasn't experienced much racism, which somehow seems to make his involvement in the campaigns more admirable for its altruism.
Later he mentions that he has been on the receiving end of racial abuse: one was being called "distasteful names" by visiting fans outside the ground at Reading, one was "just some kids out in the street" yelling abuse. Hislop shrugs them both off ("nothing too dramatic"), but won't look me in the eye while he's talking about them.
Also asked about his ex-teammate Paolo Di Canio, who used to be "a very good friend". When Di Canio used the Nazi salute during a match, Hislop condemned him publicly. Di Canio's ridiculous excuse was, "I'm a fascist, not a racist," while Italian prime minister Silvio de Berlusconi defended him, saying, "Di Canio is an exhibitionist. His salute didn't have any significance. He's a good lad." Having previously gotten on well with Di Canio, Hislop says he was both surprised and disappointed by his actions, describing the act as "diabolical." They haven't spoken since.
This year's World Cup tournament will feature Hislop's goalkeeping, as he puts on the gloves for Trinidad and Tobago's first World Cup appearance. They're in the same first round group as England, so there'll be no avoiding them. Hislop's description of what will surely be one of the biggest football events of his life was wonderfully understated: he said it would be "good fun".