Curb Racism in Soccer, Now!

A high number of racist incidents in recent years has prompted calls for tougher action from football’s governing bodies. Racism has left a shameful scar on the soul of the game and yet continues to be a problem in such a globally embraced sport. What is being done to tackle this scourge? Can we ever expect it to shown the red card and kicked off the field for good?

Ever since the renowned African American track star Jesse Owen and seventeen fellow African Americans shocked the world with “the wonders in Berlin” in the 1936 Olympics Games in Hitler’s Nazi Germany, Blacks in sports outside Africa have continually experienced stark racism.

The stellar performance of the “The Black Eagles” – so termed by the Pittsburgh Courier – challenged Hitler’s hope of an Aryan superior race.

Even though the eighteen African Americans won 25% of the total U.S. medals, none was invited to the White House. They were an all-American in their respective tracks on the international scene, living in an integrated Olympics Village in Berlin, only to come back “home” as Negroes in the segregated U.S. In 2017, there were 79 racist acts in international sports, according to published reports.

Soccer, the most played and indubitably most patronized game in the world, is a billion-dollar enterprise, and European soccer gets the lion’s share.

However, disturbing patterns has reared their ugly head in contemporary soccer in Europe against some players who contribute in no small way to feed the industry. And their crime is simply being black or non-white.

Emmanuel Olisadebe, originally from Nigeria, who played in the Polish Ekstraklasa top soccer league for Polonia Warsaw from 1997 to 2001, faced racism during games. He eventually naturalized as a Polish citizen and played for Poland in the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Ghana’s international Sulley Muntari was subjected to racial abuse while playing for Pescara in Italy.

For the color of his skin, Prince Kevin Boateng, another Ghanaian international, had to walk off from the eld while playing a pre-season friendly match for A.C. Milan against Pro Patria in 2013. Mario Balotelli, an Italian international with biological Ghanaian parentage, received his share of racism while a player at Inter Milan.

Balotelli told CNN SPORTS “Racism makes me feel alone.” Light- skinned Brazilian soccer players have had their share of racism in European soccer.

Rahim Sterling, a Manchester City and England international with Jamaican parents, was hooted at last month in a premier league game against Liverpool. Belgium soccer boss Roberto Martinez told the London Daily Mail in December 2018 that “there is a negative way of assessing Romelu’s performance for Manchester United.”

The Manchester United goal poacher of Congolese descent has been the fall guy anytime the Red Devils failed to win a game.

Kalidou Koulibaly, a Napoli and Senegalese international, was subjected on December 26, 2018, to a chant of monkey, monkey by Inter Milan fans. Koulibaly told his detractors that he is proud of his skin color.

Black players in Serbia, Poland, and many other countries have one way or another faced racism on and off the field and from within – from coaches to non-black players.

Aside from racist spectators, some soccer commentators have racist undertones embedded in their commentaries. If, for example, a French national player of African descent is not playing as expected, it is common for a commentator to refer to the player with his African identity rather than the European country he is playing for.

And the reverse is true! Lots of non-black people of goodwill, including soccer stars like Christiana Ronaldo, David Beckham, etc., have spoken out vigorously against racism in soccer.

Ronaldo wrote in Italian on Instagram on December 27, 2018, “In the world and in football there always needs to be education and respect. No to racism and to any sort of insult and discrimination!!!”

Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri says, Italy must do more about racism in soccer. Several other establishments have come out strongly against racism in soccer.

In France, the antiracism organization Licra has documented at least 74 cases of racism in recent soccer tournaments.

Show Racism the Red Card (SRTRC) is an anti-racism charity in England that seeks to educate revelers against racism in soccer in the United Kingdom.

The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), on more than one occasion, has stepped in on sovereign Africa nations it perceives to be running their soccer affairs contrary to rules and regulations.

But it looks as if FIFA and other soccer governing bodies such as the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) are toothless and powerless when it comes to racism against black players.

In the case of Kalidou Koulibaly, Inter Milan was penalized with confinement of two inner games. But such slaps on the wrist would not cut muster to dissuade racism in soccer. With Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology currently employed in competitive soccer to ensure fairness of referees’ calls, we believe technology exists – such as drones or high-powered cameras strategically located at stadiums – to fish out and prosecute culprits, and also penalize the team the suspect supported.

In March 2018, a white woman in South Africa was jailed for yelling racist abuse at a black police officer. It is only when soccer supporters and spectators own up to their racist behaviors that the most admired sport in the world will function in its natural state – that all men are born equal!

Until then, contemporary methods and attempts to curb racism in soccer as well as in other sports will continue to be a mirage. The onus is squarely on governing bodies to step up to the plate and do the right thing.

Amandla strongly feels that European soccer establishments can stem racism if they really want to!


Posted by on Jan 18 2019. Filed under Editorial. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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