Tainted Game This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

Imagine running across a grassy field, eyes set on playing well in one of the most prestigious sports leagues in the world. With years of training and hard work behind you, you have a chance to show the world what you’ve got. Imagine sinking your heart into something, giving it your all, but having your moment ruined by racial slurs. The most popular sport and world-proclaimed “beautiful game” is being marred by racism. Soccer is losing its reputation as well as its faithful fans due to hatred and discrimination.

Soccer’s beauty can be found in its diversity. This most popular and most played sport in the world has an abundance of nationalities in its top leagues. Currently though there is a lot of racism in the stands and around soccer, including the most prestigious leagues in Europe. According to FARE (Football Against Racism in Europe), “Among antiracism activists, Spain, Italy, and Eastern Europe are often singled out as the worst bastions of racist crowd behavior.”

In 2006, a player decided to speak out against racism. It was Cameroon superstar Samuel Eto’o, one of the best in the world representing a top team – Barcelona. Black players are the most racially abused in Europe. Some have been rudely taunted with shouts of “Negro, negro” and had bananas thrown at them from the stands. During a game against a Spanish team, the opponents’ fans made monkey noises every time Eto’o touched the ball. He attempted to walk off the field in protest, shouting “No mas, No mas” (no more). His teammates, coaches, and even his opponents convinced him to remain in the game. Later Eto’o said, “This is a struggle beyond the football field. I made my decision because fans attacked me for my color.”

Europe’s soccer federation has tried to force teams to play in empty stadiums as punishment for racist crowd behavior. It seems only fitting that teams should be fined and have stadiums closed down, but will this be enough to kick racism out of soccer?

The problem goes much deeper than racist fans. During the 2004 season, the new coach for Spain’s national team, Luis Aragonés, was caught on TV during a training session bashing French star striker Thierry Henry with racial slurs. Aragonés was fined 3,000 euros, but he continued to defend his actions. “I never intended to offend anyone, and for that reason I have a very easy conscience,” he told BBC Sports. “I’m obliged to motivate my players to get the best results.” These statements only strengthen the world’s frustration with racism in soccer.

Soccer is falling into its darkest times. Can people use this issue to help solve a bigger societal problem? It seems unlikely as racial offenses keep piling up with no sign of an end. This current popularity of hatred has a stronghold on the game and needs to be addressed.

Samuel Eto’o said, “At this moment in time I prefer my children don’t go to football matches. In the stands they have to listen to things that are difficult to explain to a child.” But even Eto’o has an optimistic take on how to help the cause: “I think players, leaders, and the media have to join forces so that no one feels looked down upon because of the color of their skin.” It is obvious that soccer’s governing body is not perfect, but through the efforts of players and fans there is hope. For this hope to become reality, though, we need to take a shot at goal and kick racism out of soccer. We need to wash the dirt from this tainted game.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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KatsK This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 7, 2012 at 7:25 pm
Wow. I didn't know about this! Thsnk you for writing this. The next time i see a soccer match I'll think more. It's such a shame that racism is still happening today, and corrupting what is many people's favorite sports.
doverdrama said...
Jul. 16, 2009 at 1:20 pm
i really like this! and you're so right. i'm tired of going to games, of any sport, and hearing people saying horrible things about player, because of the color of their skin. keep writing! i love how you did your research!
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