Tam given red card for World Cup racism

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 July, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 July, 1994, 12:00am

TVB Jade viewers have shown singer Alan Tam the red card for describing the Nigerian soccer team as ''animals'' during the station's World Cup coverage.

A keen soccer fan, Tam was a member of the celebrity panel of guests invited into the studio during Nigeria's match with Italy last week. During the half-time interval he described the Africans as ''flying birds and running beasts''.

He compared the Nigerians to elephants, rhinos, lions and tigers, and made jokes about the colour of the players' skin and their playing kit, according to one viewer, Michael Lai, who contacted the Sunday Morning Post.

Mr Lai said another panellist, composer Peter Lai, then said the Nigerians acted like ''savages'' on and off the playing field. ''I personally found this kind of depiction extremely distasteful and offensive,'' Michael Lai added.

Conscious about the possible impact of his words, Tam said later in the broadcast he had not meant to insult the Nigerians by saying they were animals because he used the same words to describe his own friends.

Mok Yeh-cheung, TVB's assistant manager for sport, admitted several viewers had called the station in protest. One fan was said to have reported Tam's comments to the Nigerian consulate after receiving no response from TVB.

Mr Mok said Tam had not meant to insult the players. He used the descriptions to describe their power and energy, he said.

However, he admitted panellists had been warned to be more careful for the rest of the tournament, although there was no question of dropping Tam.