Kick It Out speaks to former Manchester United midfielder Quinton Fortune
On Friday 21 October, Kick It Out hosted an educational event at Old Trafford, in partnership with Manchester United Foundation, to celebrate Black History Month.
Held inside the Manchester Suite, Kick It Out delivered an interactive workshop to over 75 pupils from the local area, with ex-United midfielder Quinton Fortune taking part alongside club and Foundation staff.
After the event, Kick It Out spoke to Quinton about inspiring young people, the importance of United’s role in challenging racism and his desire to see greater diversity in coaching and boardrooms.
The enjoyment that Quinton gets out of working with young people was clear for all to see during a busy afternoon at Old Trafford. The former South Africa international displayed an ability to educate the pupils about how serious racism is, whilst remaining engaging and humorous at the same time.
It was no surprise to hear that Quinton thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon: “Today has been amazing; it is important to spend time with these kids, tell them my story, listen to the experiences they’ve had and to raise awareness about Kick It Out.
“It’s vital to start education at a young age so that children can understand that racism shouldn’t be in the game. I gave them some examples of what I have been through and hopefully they will go away and have more of an understanding about Kick It Out and what’s happening in society.”
Quinton was fully aware of the significance that role models can play in a young person’s development and the impact his visit could have.
“I come from South Africa, but the person who inspired me was Pele,” he said. “I hope by me sharing my story with them that it inspires them to do something great in life; it is very important that young people see that black people are able to do many, great things.”
“If I didn’t read a book about Pele, I don’t know what would have happened but it motivated and inspired me to say that ‘okay, if Pele can play for his country considering where he came from, I can do it as well.’”
Quinton praised Manchester United and its Foundation for their efforts in working with Kick It Out to support the organisation’s message of equality.
He said: “If you look at the amount of fans Manchester United have, more than 615 million globally, it’s crucial. I’ve been here for a few years now and I’ve seen the amount of work that the club has been doing in the community.
“It’s been amazing to be part of this event and to raise awareness, but still more needs to be done – we can’t be complacent, we need to continue to hold events like this.”
Complacency is something Kick It Out is keen to challenge with its new initiative, Call Full Time On Hate, which urges the collective force of football to intensify its efforts to eradicate hatred and discrimination from the game.
Quinton was fully behind the initiative: “It’s a no-brainer. I just made the point to the pupils – have they ever seen a happy, hateful person? For me it’s very simple; we weren’t designed to hate, we were designed to love.
“I’m all for the initiative because it’s important to identify these people and help them, instead of just removing them from society or football matches.”
He added: “The more we can understand them and find out why they’re so hateful, the easier it is to give them what they need to learn, be educated, and to try and remove that hate to make them better people.”
Quinton’s passion for challenging discrimination and promoting diversity continues to play a significant part in his own professional and personal development.
He explained his desire to see more coaching opportunities for people from BAME backgrounds: “I’m doing my coaching badges because I want to make sure I get all my qualifications so that when I do go and approach clubs, there’s no excuses about ‘oh I haven’t got this; I haven’t got that’.
“When you look at the amount of BAME managers in the game at the moment, it’s very few. I think around 25% of players are from a BAME background but if you look at the amount of coaches and managers – Chris Hughton, Keith Curle, Terry Connor and a few others – there’s not many. That doesn’t reflect the amount of BAME players that are playing in the game.”
Quinton believes the issue extends to the boardroom too. He is currently enrolled on the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA)’ On the Board’ programme, which aims to promote greater diversity at executive level by providing competency training for current and ex-professional footballers seeking to extend their professional careers.
“If you look at board members all across the country, there’s not much diversity and so that needs to change – that’s why I’m doing this course,” he said. “I want to learn, educate and better myself as a person so I can be in a position where I can contribute, not just for myself but for society and for these young people who I saw today.
“So I think it’s very important that we see diversity, not just in the management side of things but the boardroom too.”