Football manager Arsène Wenger has given his backing to the Council of Europe’s 47-country campaign against racism and discrimination.

Wenger said: ”I support the Council of Europe in its campaign against discrimination. I believe everybody who loves football should just enjoy how great the players are and nothing else.”

The Arsenal manager has a strong record of fighting discrimination and has helped to shape the careers of many top black Premiership footballers such as Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Adebayor, Sol Campbell, and Thierry Henry.

Many observers credit Wenger, an economics graduate from Alsace, France, with accelerating the development of African football, in particular by recruiting talent from the west of the continent. He is is also hailed by anti-racism campaigners for helping to break a domestic football taboo by selecting more than three black players for his first team.

Piara Powar, director for English football’s equality and inclusion campaign, said: “Arsene Wenger is an individual who has made a real impact on the English game. Intelligent and considered, he’s been a fervent advocate of the Kick It Out campaign for many years.

“His ethos of diversity and inclusion makes him an ideal ambassador for the Council of Europe’s anti-discrimination campaign.”

Ged Grebby, Chief Executive of ‘Show Racism the Red Card,’ described the Arsenal manager as an ”outstanding supporter” of anti-racism. He emphasised Wenger’s contribution and that of his club to anti-discrimination work with north London school children.

”Arsene Wenger is an excellent ambassador for anti-racism, and indeed anti-discrimination and always conducts himself in an impeccable way,” Grebby added.

The anti-discrimination campaign has also won support from sporting and cultural icons such as flamboyant Dutch Eurovision group ‘The Toppers,’ Montpellier Hérault Rugby Club lock Mamuka Gorgodze, Greek actress Pemi Zouni and Norwegian film star Jenny Skavlan.

”It is important to speak about the discrimination and racism that exists in society,” said another supporter, the ex-Barcelona footballer Lilian Thuram, who is now president of the “Education Against Racism” foundation.

”Unfortunately, there is a tendency to deny that the society was constructed on the fact of seeing others as different and inferior.”

A Council of Europe spokeswoman said high profile celebrity support helps to promote the values of the organisation, now celebrating its 60th anniversary. It would also allow the campaign’s messages to reach a broader audience.

“Our star supporters are living the values we want to see,” the spokeswoman added. “They are role models for each and every one of us.”

The Council of Europe, the region’s oldest and largest assembly of nations, believes the media can make a crucial contribution to raising awareness of discrimination and can play an important role in the promotion of dialogue in a multi-ethnic, multi-faith environment. The campaign also encourages media organisations to adopt fairer recruitment policies which would allow more ethnic minorities to enter the profession.

”Our mandate is to defend and extend the values of freedom and human dignity for every individual, regardless of his or her nationality, ethnic origin, cultural background, religious beliefs or other characteristics,” said the organisation’s Deputy Secretary General Maud de Boer-Buquicchio.

Watch the full Arsene Wenger interview here.

Original link: Council of Europe Official Site