The Tainted Game

November 29, 2007
By
Imagine running up and down a grass field, eyes set on playing well in one of the most prestigious sports leagues in the world. With years of repetitive training and hard work behind your back, you have found the chance to show the world what you have. Imagine sinking your heart into anything and everything, giving it your all, but having your moment ruined by racial slurs. The most popular sport and worldly proclaimed “beautiful game” is being marred by racism. Soccer is losing its reputation as well as its faithful fans with the consistent repeats of hate and discrimination.

Soccer’s beauty can be found in its diversity. Being the most popular and played sport in the world, there is an abundance of mixed nationality representing the top clubs in the top leagues in the world. Currently though there is a lot of racism in the stands and around soccer especially in the most prestigious leagues in Europe. The organization FARE (Football Against Racism in Europe), a network of nine organizations with contacts in 35 countries states, “Among antiracism activists, Spain, Italy, and Eastern Europe are often singled out as the worst bastion of racist crowd behavior.” (www.csmonitor.com)

In 2006 a player on the pitch decided to speak up against racism. It was Cameroon superstar Samuel Eto’o, one of the best players in the world representing one of the best clubs in the world—Barcelona. African players are the most racially abused players in Europe because of the lack of racial diversity in most countries. Some players have been rudely discriminated by profane shouts ‘Negro Negro’ and having bananas thrown at them from the stands. During an away game against Real Zaragoza the fans of ‘La Romareda’ (stadium) kept making monkey chants everytime Eto’o would touch the ball. Eto’o had enough of the racism that circulated around the stadium against him; he attempted to walk off the field in protest. His teammates, coaches, and even his opponents tried to convince him to stay on the pitch. After a long lay off where video footage captured Eto’o shouting ‘No mas, No mas’ (no more, no more) he was eventually persuaded to finish the rest of the game. Later Eto’o said in press conference, “This is a struggle beyond the football field, I made my decision because fans attacked me for my color.” (Times.com)
In retaliation to this UEFA, Europe’s soccer federation has tried to force teams to play games in empty stadiums as punishment for racist crowd behavior. It seems only fitting that teams should be fined money and have the stadiums closed down, but will this be enough to kick out racism in soccer? It may seem that only the fans have a racial impact on the game but the problem is much deeper than thought. During the 2004 season the new coach for Spain’s National Team, Luis Aragones, was caught on Spanish television during a training session bashing French star striker Thierry Henry with racial slurs. Aragones was later fined for 3,000 euros but he continued to defend his indefensible case, “I never intended to offend anyone, and for that reason I have a very easy conscience,” the Spanish boss said in BBC Sports. “I'm obliged to motivate my players to get the best results.” These statements only strengthen the frustration that is felt throughout the world with racism in soccer. When the coach of a team, who should be guiding his young players as a role model, is caught referring to a black French player as “negro de mierda” to motivate his team, then there is a sick reality behind professional soccer.
The sport of soccer if falling into its darkest times, but can people use the problems of soccer to help solve a bigger problem in society? It’s hard to say when the racial offenses keep piling up with no sign of an end. This current popularity of hate has a stronghold on the game and needs to be shunned. Samuel Eto’o is so afraid of this current problem that he declared to “In Sports Daily: Marca” of spain “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. It is better they aren't exposed to it.” But even in this time of struggle Eto’o has some an optimistic look 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 the governing body of football is not perfect, but with campaigns being made by soccer players as well as soccer fans alike there is still 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 off the dirt from this tainted game.





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