AS a young boy, Liam Rosenior could only watch in horror as his dad Leroy was bombarded with not only bananas but also monkey chants.
Then, once a professional footballer himself, the Hull City defender was subjected to such vile racist abuse by an opposing player during one early reserve game that he took the law into his own hands and dished out summary justice. The inevitable red card and three-game ban subsequently cost Rosenior a possible first involvement in the play-offs.
No wonder, therefore, that the 28-year-old has been following closely the storm of controversy that has raged through the top end of the English game in recent weeks.
John Terry’s four-game ban for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand, the boycott of ‘Kick It Out’ T-shirts by a host of high-profile players and now the Mark Clattenburg row, racism has rarely been out of the spotlight.
Rosenior has been as concerned as anyone by the sudden flurry of unsavoury incidents but the Tigers defender is also quick to stress that huge strides have been made in the fight to rid football of racism.
“We have got to remember how far things have come,” Rosenior told the Yorkshire Post at the end of a week that has seen an unprecedented fissure develop following allegations that referee Clattenburg used racist language in last Sunday’s Premier League clash between Chelsea and Manchester United.
“I remember watching my Dad in the Eighties having bananas thrown at him and get all sorts of abuse.
“Society was different then, too. My Mum is white and my Dad black, and she was spat in the face for having a black baby when once pushing me in my pram.
“So, for people to now say things haven’t moved on is disrespectful to people like my Dad. And to the people who have worked so hard to change things in this country.
“I realise the people involved recently has thrown things into the spotlight. There has been the England captain, the brother of a previous England captain and now a referee in a game between the top two in the Premier League.
“But these have been isolated incidents. Yes, they are bad. And they should never happen. But they are isolated incidents. We can’t lose sight of that.”
Hull’s last home game – the 2-1 win over Ipswich Town – saw every member of Steve Bruce’s squad don T-shirts supporting ‘Kick It Out’, the organisation spearheading football’s equality and inclusion drive.
Elsewhere, however, it was a different story with Rio Ferdinand, Joleon Lescott and Jason Roberts declining to do so in protest at what they perceive to be shortcomings in the campaign.
Rosenior said: “I think it is a shame that some people don’t wear the T-shirts. That campaign is part of a big thing – to kick racism out of football. Why would you not put on a T-shirt with that message? It is a positive message.
“Footballers are role models to children and if you refuse to wear a T-shirt with that message then they will do the same. And that is not the message we want to send out.
“Keep it in perspective. Things have moved on and that wouldn’t have happened without so many people working so hard to put it in the spotlight. We need to take it forward, not set up little factions and point the finger at each other to say, ‘You’re not doing enough’.”
Rosenior’s own experiences are behind his strong belief that the country should not allow recent high-profile incidents to deflect from what progress has been made.
He added: “I suffered racism playing for England Under-21s against Serbia six years ago. We played in Holland and it wasn’t just the crowd but their players as well.
“I was on the bench and warming up. Their bench made monkey noises at me. That was part of their culture and how they have been brought up. That needs to change
“At 18, I had a racial incident here in England. We played a reserve game for Bristol City and a guy called me the n-word five times within the referee’s earshot.
“I asked the referee to do something about it but he didn’t. So, I two-footed the geezer and walked off the pitch. I got sent off and banned.
“At the time, I’d just got in the first team and missed the play-offs that season as a result. I couldn’t prove it and it was my word against his. But the guy who said it knows I know.
“Maybe I shouldn’t have reacted like that but it was how I dealt with it.
“What happened to me at 18 wouldn’t happen now. Most black players have come across an idiot who has said something out of turn. But that doesn’t mean society is wrong or football is wrong.
“What we must do is celebrate that we have moved on, while realising things still need doing.”