Racism is a truly ugly side of society, and yet painfully, it continues to prevail in all corners of humanity. It is especially sad when racism interferes with the sanctity of a game as beautiful and competitive as soccer. There really should be no room for discrimination of any sort in the game, but it actually occurs in quite a large scale. Listed here are six countries with highest incidences of racism by soccer fans.
Russia has a really bad record when it comes to racist soccer fans. One would think that in this day and age, humanity would have surpassed this asinine way of thinking. But it’s constantly proved over again that the world is more backwards than we generally like to believe. Here are some specific examples of their overt racism: In 2008, during a UEFA match between Russian club team Zenit St. Petersburg and Olympique Marseille from France, the unruly Russian home fans racially taunted the black members of the Marseille team by throwing banana peels and mimicking monkey chants. Also more recently, in 2013, when Nigerian-born soccer star Peter Odemwingie was sold from Russian team Lokomotiv Moscow to West Brom in the UK, the Lokomotiv fans celebrated the player’s transfer with racist banners that really crossed all lines of decency and morality (see above). It truly is a shame.
Even though Italy is home to some of the most biggest international teams in the world including Inter Milan, Juventus and A.C. Milan, their Serie A league is also said to be one of the most corrupt and racist leagues.
Mario Balotelli, one of the best young strikers in Italy today happens to be of Ghanaian heritage, and all through his young career, he has been constantly taunted and jeered by racist Italian fans. One of the more recent examples of racism in Italy happened in January of 2012. Ghanaian soccer international Kevin Prince Boateng was playing with his professional football club AC Milan in a friendly match against the lower league team Pro Patria. During this game, the Patria fans constantly made racist jeers and taunts whenever Boateng had the ball. He finally got fed up with all the abuse and kicked the ball to the stands and began to walk off the field. His teammates stood in solidarity with him too and walked off the field as well. Everyone has a breaking limit, and that day, Kevin Prince had reached his.
The English Premier League is undoubtedly one of the strongest and most diverse leagues in football, but this doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have its share of ugly racial incidents. Incidents of racism in the EPL go all the way back to the 80’s with stars like John Barnes and Paul Ince being targeted, and players of the current era like Joseph Yobo, Djimi Traore and Patrice Evra of Manchester United. It is worth pointing out here that in Evra’s case, his case of discrimination was between him and a player who has been in the news a lot lately, Luis Suarez. Evra claimed that during a game between his team and Liverpool, Suarez abused him with racially derisive language. Other incidents of racism in England include Egyptian striker Mido who was called a “Terrorist” by some Newcastle fans and Israel soccer coach Avram Grant who was racially taunted by fans of his own team Chelsea.
Leading up to the present World Cup in Brasil, there have been a pair of incidences that have really brought the spotlight on racism in Spain’s highly lucrative La Liga soccer league. The first incident happened at the end of April when Brazilian player for Barcelona, Dani Alves was playing a match against Villareal. Alves was about to take a corner when a fan hurled a banana at the dark-skinned player (see above). Instead of ignoring it, Alves picked the banana up, nonchalantly unpeeled it and ate it. It was a response that no one expected and social media went wild in appreciation for his clever blow against racist fans. Then barely a week later, the Senegalese player Pape Diop who plays for Spanish club team Levante, was taunted with racist jeers all through their game with Athletico Madrid. Diop decided to fight back by dancing in front of the racist fans. These players are brave and noble for standing up for themselves, however these racist incidents need to be eradicated from the beautiful game of soccer.
There have been well-documented cases of racism in the German league against players like Tony Yeboah and Gerald Asamoah, both Ghanaian players who have played with German teams. However, it’s even sadder when ugly racist incidents happen at culturally diverse events like The World Cup. In the recent group stage of the 2014 World Cup, the match between Ghana and Germany was interrupted by a Nazi-sympathizer fan that broke onto the pitch with Nazi messages written across his chest. Also at the same game, there were white fans in the crowd in black-face makeup wearing Ghana t-shirts.
Thierry Henry is one of the major stars of French soccer and ever since he debuted on the scene at the young age of 17, he had to deal with racist chants, jeers and even fans spitting on him. This type of racism is not only faced by black players, but also by players of Arab descent as well. Samir Nasri is one of the most talented players in the world and he currently plays for the league winning championship team, Manchester City in the English Premier League. In a recent interview to a French newspaper, he explained the rise of racism among French fans to the rise of the extreme political right parties. He went on to say that, “French people have turned against the Muslims. Ten to fifteen years ago, it wasn’t like this, I don’t like the way the mentality is in France now.”
Also this racism in French soccer is further exemplified by a scandal that rocked France a few years ago. It was leaked in the media that the top soccer officials were secretly discussing ways to cap the enrollment of black and Arab kids in football academies to a fixed quota of 30%. In effect, they would be turning away talented kids not based on merit, but on color. This is the worst kind of racism – institutional racism that affects kids who are just trying to excel in the sport they love.