“Acknowledgement of black midfielders and their technical prowess ultimately is the main aim of the movement”
Simeon John, better known as @SJftbl on Twitter, is a social media trendsetter. The Sports Science & Medicine student is the creator of the brilliant #BlackRegistaMovement hashtag that’s increasing in popularity since he gave it to the world back in January.
So, what is a regista? “It’s actually an Italian term,” Simeon replies, “which is now being used worldwide, although, I’ll credit @Registability for its mainstream rise. The orchestrator from deep inside the pitch, a team’s flow and tempo in possession will most likely be conducted by this player and the template of the team has to be built around this player’s strengths. Playing in a pivot, the range and quality of passes will unlock the opposition and create many chances.
“Not every team plays with this style of player, but there are more and more black players within the top leagues who are symbolic to the #BlackRegistaMovement. In Spain, arguably the current face of the movement, Steven N’Zonzi of Sevilla is a regista with sublime passing ability and tactical awareness who is currently spearheading the team in the La Liga title race.
“In Italy, Amadou Diawara of Napoli is one of my favourites and is sure to become a phenomenon of a midfielder soon. Franck Kessie (pictured) of Atalanta and Assane Diousse of Empoli are also high on the agenda. Over to Germany, I’d say Naby Keita and Riechedly Bazoer are the main black playmakers that play a bit deeper but are both doing big things currently.
“In France, Monaco’s Fabinho is impressing many, especially as he was playing as a right-back last season. Wylan Cyprien of Nice is one to watch out for too. And lastly in England, Wilfred Ndidi [Leicester City], Giannelli Imbula [Stoke City] and Ainsley Maitland-Niles [Arsenal] are three who are waving the #BlackRegistaMovement flag in the Premier League.”
Simeon is just 18 but has a footballing brain of a 48-year-old seasoned coach. But there’s a reason why. “I was born in South London and I currently live in Egypt as a certified Youth Football Coach for Elite International Soccer, one of the leading youth football academies in the nation.” It all makes sense now.
“I also study Sports Science & Medicine via homeschooling. I’ve had a fascination for football tactics as well as the art of football and sports coaching for a long time now, which sort of forms the basis of my Twitter account and my current interests in real life too.”
Back to the hashtag and its objective which is to shine a light on the black players that have been overlooked for their technical ability. “Black footballers are normally put into these racial baskets – ‘the really fast but brainless winger’ and ‘the very strong energetic, but dumb midfielder’ are two. While these stereotypes may be true within the wider footballing world, it only seems to be used in mainstream outlets towards predominantly black players.
“Guys like Yaya Toure [Manchester City] and Paul Pogba [Manchester United] have all-round games with very few weaknesses and while they are both universally rated across the globe, many people tend to only highlight the physical side of their games, not the technical and tactical side of it. I want to change that perception.”
Enter the #BlackRegistaMovement. “I actually had the idea for a few months, but the hashtag itself was born during the recent Afcon 2017 tournament. The idea behind it was that many black players were not getting enough, or sometimes even any, credit for their technical ability and were normally only highlighted for their physical attributes.
“Most of these players tended to be midfielders, as there seems to be this stereotype that exists for black midfielders that they only play one way and that they’re big, powerful and energetic. Now, I don’t have any problems with these attributes at all, but my problem was that it tended to be used in a repetitive, and sometimes animalistic manner that lacked any real deeper insight.
“And while many had a lot of technical and tactical prowess, it was often ignored. Acknowledgement of black midfielders and their technical prowess ultimately is the main aim of the movement.”
It seems to be good-humoured but thoughtful at the same time. Intentional? “For sure,” he exclaims. “The idea was generally a bit of banter, but I still wanted to get the message across within the bigger picture in a way that still had its serious element but in a Twitter-humorous manner.” Is that another hashtag this young man has coined – #TwitterHumorous? “If I had done it in a very serious, intimidating tone it would be hard to get the message of racial stereotypes within football across to a wider audience of different demographics.”
Speaking of demographics, there doesn’t seem to be much if any, negative retorts to the hashtag. “A lot of people seem to be aware of how some commentators, pundits and journalists perceive black footballers and the black athlete with lazy, racial stereotypes. Many agree with the message behind the hashtag and support the movement.”
Simeon is on Twitter and is well worth a follow. Be sure to look out for the #BlackRegistaMovement hashtag, join the conversation and don’t be surprised when it becomes a trending topic. Just remember where you heard it first.