Education and understanding the key in fighting racism, insists Nathan Austin

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NATHAN AUSTIN chokes back his own tears as he recalls his mum weeping uncontrollably.

Watching her son being subjected to chilling racist abuse was simply too much for Jennifer to bear.

A precocious schoolboy talent, Austin was starring for East Wemyss in 2008 when a sickening slur came from the opposition manager.

Ex-Bairn: Nathan Austin has starred for a host of former SPFL sides

“I took on a defender and I heard their manager shouting ‘snap the black b*******’ and it shook me,” Austin says.

Sadly, that was not the first time he had endured insults of that ilk. Nor would it be the last.

Austin was 14 years of age and considering quitting the game. It just didn’t seem worth the horrific flak.

“My mum didn’t drive at the time so she couldn’t get to many of my matches,” he continues. “But she came to that one because it was a big game – and I’ll never forget her being in floods of tears on the way home.

“I still get upset when I think about it.”

The Black Lives Matter movement is so much more than a hashtag for Austin. It is a tipping point that has been a long time coming.

It is comforting to presume that Scottish football has progressed in the 12 years since Austin went through that ordeal, but recent reports of racist abuse towards Shay Logan, Clevid Dikamona, Marvin Bartley, Alfredo Morelos and Uche Ikpeazu underline how much work is still to be done.

“Racism is still happening in Britain and is brushed under the carpet too often,” he continued.

“It’s never going to be totally eradicated but this movement is about raising awareness and speaking out.”

Prolific: Austin has shone for Lowland League winning Kelty

Austin did speak out. His manager at the time, William Wilkie, took his story to the media and the Scottish public were suitably sickened.

From initially feeling isolated and alien, the precocious young forward was swiftly supported by his local community.

He rediscovered his love for the game and his undoubted talent shone through.

Austin has gone on to play for East Fife, Falkirk, Inverness and was the most prolific striker in Scottish football last season with Kelty Hearts, finding the net a staggering 48 times.

“I walked down to the shops and people were saying ‘dinnae give up football’!” he recalled.

“People got behind me and started to understand how much these things were affecting my football and making me unhappy.

“I’m not glad those things happened – but it made people realise the damage their words were doing and encouraged others to speak out and be supportive.

“Hopefully, that’s what the Black Lives Matter movement will do: help people realise what others are going through and fight injustice.

“I would hate for any kid to experience what I did on a football pitch or anywhere else.”

Austin’s desire to eliminate ignorance shines through.

He was eight years of age and his younger brother Jordan, who would later be his teammate at East Fife, was six when they moved to the Fife town of Leven from Hitchin, just north of London.

And he is adamant his early struggles at school were down to a lack of education on matters of diversity – an issue he believes is still plaguing the U.K.

“We got loads of weird questions,” Austin continued. “Where are you from? Why is your hair like that? And there was some abuse at the start.

“But once the other kids got to know us it died down. Once people educate themselves, race and religion shouldn’t be an issue.

IGNORANCE

“I feel really passionate about that – to combat racism, we need to be educating kids about these issues at a young age. Most prejudice comes from ignorance.”

The ill-informed questions and funny looks are a thing of the past for Austin, who still lives in Fife and could not feel more at home.

He added: “I still stay in Leven, I have a mixed-race child, Mila, who I want to raise here. I’m a big part of my community now and I don’t receive any racial abuse.

“Things can get better. That’s what the movement wants for every town and city – for things to improve and be inclusive.”

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