The toughest opponent a footballer can face: Racism
Miloslav Valko / December 28, 2018
(3 min read)
Football pitch. Twenty-two players. 7140 square meters of the greatest ethnic diversity you can possibly find, where the only thing that corrupts and bonds men at the same time is the passion for what they love. During the 1970/71 season in the Premier League, England, no other players outside of the isles where included in Liverpool FC squad consisting of 26 players. In 2018/19, out of the thirty-player squad, only twelve are from countries of the United Kingdom. Three players are from South America, ten are from rest of the Europe, and six are from Africa.
A great jump towards racial equality in football took place in recent years all over the world. Racism though, still prevails, although Western Europe's leagues are more tolerant than the Eastern European. In the Polish League, fans boo, hiss and torment players of different skin colour or religion whenever the ball is passed to them – even at their home ground until now. In England though, for example the Liverpool fans are obsessed with a song of Mo Salah, the Egyptian king, with which they honour their best player – Mohamed Salah, a very much religious based Muslim, who prays on the ground every time he scores a goal. These are gestures of a very tolerant, peaceful but still strongly passionate fan base. But if you think, that you will not find racism in English football at all, you would be very mistaken. In 2015 campaign, Luis Suarez from Uruguay, received eight match ban and forty thousand pound fine when found guilty for racist abuse toward Patrice Evra. Paradoxically Suarez had the habit of celebrating every goal he scored with his striker partner Daniel Sturridge, who is the same skin colour as Patrice Evra. Has the progress really been made from 1970/71 campaigns then?_____________________________________________________________
FIFA claims they are doing everything possible to challenge racism in this great game.
For some clearly not, as at EURO 2012, racist abuse from football stars who are role models for young children and scouts being told to avoid hiring Asian players. Although racism is still taking place in football, FIFA is trying to fight it. In recent years, FIFA launched a powerful anti-racism campaign, with a goal to eliminate racism from the greatest game in the world. Say no to racism campaign, featuring the best active players, all saying no to racism, in their native languages. Also, a badge with a simple sign: Respect, were installed on the sleeves of the football kits. FIFA claims they are doing everything possible to challenge racism in this great game.
As professional player Kevin Prince-Boateng stated recently, "The only thing that has changed is that racism is more hidden. It's not up front anymore it's not about people chanting or whatever because they know there's going to be sanctions, people are going to watch them. So, it's just a little bit more hidden. But it's still there because if you see the last five years, a lot of things happen still, and it's very alarming because after five years nothing has happened, nothing has changed. That's sad." Just days after sitting down with Boateng, The New York Times ran a story about Kerfalla Sissoko, an amateur soccer player from Guinea playing in France who was racially abused in May and given a 10-match ban. He received the same suspension as the perpetrators, after a brawl broke out in which, according to spectators, he and the team's other black players were assaulted by their opponents, leaving him beaten and with severe post-traumatic stress disorder.
One may ask, what can players and fans do to stop racism, when the elites in football institutions are failing to deal with the issue. Speaking up and raising awareness on social issues, using the platform and the profile the sport provides, it should be enough drive them away. A great respect should be shown for the sacrifices of the former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick who took a stand against social injustice. Those are the moments we need, to demonstrate what people are fighting against, they let their voices be heard. Kaepernick, lef t millions of dollars on the table, in order to be able to say what he believes. He's going to be known forever. We need these big people to make big actions because otherwise nothing will change.