Stoppage Time: World Cup Diary

By Michael Louis-Ingram, BASN Associate Editor
Updated: July 8, 2010

By Michael – Louis Ingram, BASN Columnist

 

PHILADELPHIA (BASN) — As the first World Cup to be held on African soil continues, an intriguing subplot has emerged.

 

With the defeat of Ghana’s noble Black Stars in the loss to Uruguay, Africa gained a measure of respect — and, in the minds of some are true sportsmen for presenting a World Cup minus much of the drama feared by many in FIFA when the idea of bringing the Cup to Africa was pressed.

 

Now that the teams are set for the final, there is an issue that has yet to be properly assessed, especially after Spain’s ascension to the Cup’s championship match.

Throughout Europe, Black footballers have been treated…like shit.

 

In the early 1930s, Dixie Dean, a dark-skinned center-forward for Everton FC, recalled how racist comments were aimed at him as he left the pitch at half time during a match in London.

 

According to accounts, Dean punched the offender himself before disappearing into the players’ tunnel. The authorities took no action against Dean, and a nearby police officer was alleged to have informed the victim that he had “deserved” his punishment…

 

The world’s most popular sport also has the world’s oldest problem.

Even when Black men are representing their home country, the aftereffects are appalling.

 

I remember being glued to the television when France won in 1998; it was as if I was looking at a soccer version of the Kansas City Chiefs beating the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV! Almost the entire team was either West African or North African – and all Black & Brown gettin’ down; they literally came out of nowhere.

 

However, after that French team, with stars like Lilian Thuram, Marcel Desailly, David Trezeguet, Zinedine “Zizou” Zidane and a very young Thierry Henry won the 1998 Cup and the 2000 European championship, 39 percent in a French survey said there were too many “foreign-born” players on their team prior to the 2002 World Cup.

 

What the fuck does that mean?

 

It means the mounting resentment of Black people holds no border anywhere in the world. Constant derision and pressure — in some cases from even their own home fans — have put many Black footballers in harm’s way.

 

The scorecard on such madness seems spread liberally throughout the continent; and the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) has done very little to stop it.

 

Europe’s “Most Wanted”

England

In April 2004,former Manchester United coach Ron Atkinson resigns from television channel ITV after being caught making a racist comment on the air about Chelsea’s Marcel Desailly.

 

Believing the microphone to be switched off, he said, “…he [Desailly] is what is known in some schools as a fucking lazy thick nigger.” Although transmission in the UK had finished, the statement was broadcast and heard throughout various countries in the Middle East. He also left his job as a sports columnist for The Guardian newspaper “by mutual agreement.”

In April 2007, Gillingham goalkeeper Kelvin Jack is racially abused by a Rotherham fan; once discovered, the fan is then banned for life by the club. In September 2008, Black Portsmouth defender Sol Campbell, is abused by Tottenham supporters, whose insults include the image of Campbell “hanging from a tree.” In January, four of the fans involved are banned from attending soccer matches for three years after pleading guilty to indecent chanting.

 

Egyptian forward Mido, playing for Middlesbrough against Newcastle, is subjected to Islamophobic chanting from a small number of Newcastle fans. Mido had been subjected to similar chants the previous year, again from Newcastle fans.

Steve Mokone, a black South African who later played for FC Barcelona, left Coventry City after his manager said to him “We brought you over here and you are not satisfied.

That’s the trouble with you people”; Mokone interpreted this as being racist, and he swiftly signed for Heracles Almelo.

 

Roger Verdi, who is of Indian origin, changed his name from Rajinder Singh Birdi due to racism.

 

During a Premier League Cup match between Blackpool and Stoke City at Brittania Stadium on September 22 2009, Jason Euell, who at the time was sat on the substitutes bench was racially abused by a Stoke fan, who was ejected from the stadium and subsequently arrested by police in Staffordshire.

 

Before being released pending inquiries, Euell said the “fan” was taunting him. Blackpool manager Ian Holloway, who had to restrain Euell, was furious in his post-match interview, saying:

“We are human beings and Jason is a footballer. The color of his skin shouldn’t matter. It was disgusting. The stewards believed what Jason said, got the bloke out and I hope he is banned for life. (He is) an absolute disgrace of a human being. I thought those days had gone. Jason was just sat in the dugout at the time. I saw his reaction and I had to calm him down. It’s absolutely disgraceful.

 

Euell, who received an official apology from Stoke City, later said: “It did hurt. I felt I had to stand up for all colors and creeds and show that we won’t accept it. I’m proud that I made a stand. It was a shock to hear what came out of the guy’s mouth.”

“Racism in football is not dead and buried but it’s still a shock to hear that kind of thing in close proximity. There were people near the idiot who didn’t agree with it, but there were others who turned a blind eye, which was disappointing.”

 

In the wake of the incident, Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp called for fans who racially abuse players to be imprisoned: “That is disgusting – there’s no place for that in the game. Surely we can’t have that sort of behavior now? Anyone who does it should be put in prison – not banned from football. Stick them where they belong, in the nut-house. It’s wrong.”

 

Scotland

Black players in Scotland were greeted with bananas thrown from the crowd and a barrage of ‘monkey grunts’, notably Mark Walters of league powers Glasgow Rangers and Paul Elliott of Glasgow Celtic.

 

On January 2 1988, Rangers winger Mark Walters made his debut in the Old Firm derby match at Celtic Park. Rangers lost 2-0 and Walters was subjected to racist abuse from opposing Celtic fans who were caught on camera chanting like monkeys, throwing fruit, (mostly bananas) onto the pitch and dressing in monkey costumes. It was reported that Rangers fans used “implicit racism” on the same day by singing “I’d rather be a darkie than a Tim (Irish catholic)”

Although Celtic slammed the perpetrators, the Scottish Football Association remained silent.

According to Walters, he experienced even worse racial abuse in Edinburgh against Hearts. Following racist abuse aimed at Walters, Rangers banned some of their own season ticket holders.

 

Glasgow Rangers captain Lorenzo Amoruso issued a public apology after a match in December 1999 for making racist comments against Borussia Dortmund striker Victor Ikpeba. In March 2003, Rangers fans were accused of racially abusing Bobo Balde and Momo Sylla.

In February 2007, Jason Scotlanda forward for St. Johnstone of the Scottish Football Association is abused by fans of Scottish Cup opponent Motherwell. The offenders are busted by fans around them and are reported to police and match stewards. Motherwell chairman John Boyle issues an apology on behalf of the club.

In October 2009, Rangers player Maurice Edu said he was racially abused by some Rangers fansleaving from a UEFA Champions League loss to Unirea Urziceni on Twitter: “Not sure what hurt more,’ according to Edu in a Reuters interview: “The result or being racially abused by a couple of our own fans as I’m getting in my car.”

France

January 2005: As part of an anti-racism initiative in the French League (LFP), Paris Saint-Germain’s players wear all-white jerseys and Lens players wear all-black during a French league match at Parc des Princes in Paris.

 

The move backfires as racist elements among PSG’s crowd in the Kop of Boulogne sing “Come on the whites.” The racist overtone is backed up with monkey chants from the Boulogne crowd when Lens players touch the ball. France midfielder Patrick Vieira, present in the crowd that night, vows not to set foot in Parc des Princes again.

 

November 2006: PSG fan Julien Quemener is shot and killed by off-duty police officer Antoine Granomort, who is protecting a Jewish fan under attack from a large PSG hate mob after a UEFA Cup match against Israel’s Hapoel Tel Aviv.

 

September 2007: Libourne’s Burkina Faso player Boubacar Kebe is ejected by the match referee for reacting to racial abuse from Bastia fans. The “Kebe” affair eventually leads to Bastia being docked points in the league standings — a rarity.

 

February 2008: Morocco defender Abdeslam Ouaddou of Valenciennes climbs into the stands at Metz to confront a fan racially abusing him. The match referee shows Ouaddou a yellow card for unsportsmanlike behavior. The LFP later calls for harsher sanctions against racism.

 

Italy

November 2005: Ivory Coast defender Marc Zoro, then playing for Italian team Messina in Serie A, is abused by Inter Milan fans with monkey chants. He attempts to stop the match by walking off with the ball. All matches the following week in Italy are delayed by five minutes as part of an anti-racism initiative in reaction to the abuse aimed at Zoro.

Black footballers playing in the Serie A in 1992-1993 were also racially abused. Two Dutch “brothers”, Ruud Gullit and Aron Winter, had spoken out against such racist taunts; and their complaints spurred a day of action on December 13, 1992, with the slogan No al razzimo! (No To Racism) being paraded by all players in the two Italian divisions.

 

England’s Paul Ince also complained about open abuse during his spell with Inter Milan in Italy between 1995 & 1997.

 

On April of 2009, Inter Milan’s Mario Balotelli, an Italian footballer of Ghanaian descent, was subjected to racial abuse from rival fans from Juventus. They were handed a one game home fan ban as a result.

Germany

Racism in Germany accelerated after the reunification of the country in the beginning of the 1990s. By 1992, Neo-Nazi groups in Germany had begun to use football matches as occasions to plan and organize attacks against local ethnic communities and East European, particularly Turkish, refugees.

 

In 1994, Borussia Dortmund star Julio Cesar threatened to leave the club after he was refused admission to a local nightclub because of his black complexion. FC St. Pauli fans responded decisively to outbreaks of racism in the German game.

With the slogan, Gegen rechts (‘Against the Right’), a combination of fans and students took to the club’s terraces in 1992 to stand up against politically motivated racism. All of the Bundesliga teams took a similar tack with anti-racism efforts later that same year…

 

Racism in German football is much more subtle than in other parts of Europe; monkey chants have been replaced with codes, such as the number 88, which stands for ‘HH’ or ‘Heil Hitler’ (‘H’ is the eighth letter of the alphabet in German and English). Bundesliga member Hannover 96, has banned the “88″ symbol from their stadium.

 

In April 2006, in a match between St. Pauli and Cheminitzer FC, visiting Chemnitz fans stormed Turkish-owned stores chanting “Sieg Heil” and waving imitation Nazi flags. Some shouted: “We’re going to build a subway from St Pauli to Auschwitz.”

 

Ghana-born German international striker Gerald Asamoah has frequently been the target of racist abuse. On September 10, 2006 Hansa Rostock were investigated for racist abuse in a friendly game and were subsequently found guilty; the team was fined $25,000.

 

In August 2007, it was announced that Borussia Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller would be investigated by the Deutsche FuSSball Bund (DFB) after apparently calling Asamoah a ‘black pig’ after a physically painful clash with the sturdy striker.

Weidenfeller and his club were quick to seek a plea bargain before the German Soccer Association (DFS) Disciplinary Committee.

The goalie was sentenced to a minor fine and a three-game suspension for a “derogatory verbal lapse.”

Racist chants in Cottbus are said to be commonplace. In October 2008, Torsten Ziegner was given a five-match ban for racially abusing Nigerian player Kingsley Onuegbu during a match against Eintracht Braunschweig.

In a match between Sachsen Leipzig and Hallescher FC, Leipzig’s Nigerian midfielder Adebowale Ogungbure is spat at and racially abused by opposition fans. In retaliation, Ogungbure places two fingers above his mouth and salutes the crowd, a reference to Adolf Hitler.

Ogungbure is arrested by German police, because it is illegal to make Nazi gestures for political or abusive purposes, but criminal proceedings against him are dropped soon after.

 

Later, in Aachen, a town in Germany close to the border with Belgium and the Netherlands, a match referee threatened via loudspeakers to suspend the match between Alemannia Aachen and Borussia Mönchengladbach — after fans had called Brazilian player Kahe an “asylum seeker.”

The incident came only a week after racist slurs were made against Schalke 04 striker Gerald Asamoah in Rostock. The DFB then sentenced the opposing team to a 20,000 euro fine — and one home game without spectators.

This precedent-setting case was seen as a message to soccer clubs that they are also responsible for their fans’ behavior. Asamoah, who in 2001 became the first African-born player on the German national team, is probably one of the most popular victims of racist insults — not just from the bleachers, but apparently also on the field.

Belgium

Oguchi Onyewu, an African-American defender, has been punched and shouted at by racist fans while playing for Standard Liege.

He’s also had incidents with other players, such as Jelle Van Damme, who, according to Onyewu, repeatedly called him a “dirty ape” during the 2008-09 League playoff, even after Onyewu relayed the information to the referees.

 

Van Damme denied the accusations following the match, and claimed that Onyewu had called him a “dirty Flemish.” Approximately two weeks later, on June 2, 2009, it was announced by Onyewu’s lawyer that he was suing Van Damme in an effort to end on-field racism in European football.

Zola Matumona left FC Brussels after he accused club chairman Johan Vermeersch of making racist remarks towards him during a crisis meeting at the struggling club. He is reported to have told Matumona to “think about other things than trees and bananas.”

Eastern Europe

In Russia, six years ago a typical scene took place at Dynamo stadium during the 1-1 draw between Dynamo and Saturn. As Saturn’s midfielder Prince Amoako walked off the pitch, Dynamo fans from the main stand began to shout abuse at him.

He had been called “monkey” and “black bastard” already during the match, but this time the Dynamo fans began to make monkey noises to laughter from fans around them.

 

October 2006:In Serbia, 37 Borac Cacak fans are arrested and eight face criminal charges after racially abusing the club’s Zimbabwean player Mike Temwanjira during a first division match. Several days later, 152 supporters of first division side Rad Belgrade are detained after shouting anti-Muslim slogans during a match against their Novi Pazar rivals.

 

In 2007, UEFA fines the Serbian Football Association for racial insults by fans aimed at black players during the under-21 European championship match against England played in the Netherlands.

 

March 2007: In a match between Lithuania and France, Lithuania fans unfurl a racist banner directed against France’s many black players, and representing a map of Africa, painted with the French flag colors and a slogan saying “Welcome to Europe.”

 

August 2007: Midfielder DaMarcus Beasley, an Afircan-American, was taunted by fans who made “monkey chants” after he scored his first goal for Glasgow Rangers in a Champions League qualifier at FK Zeta in Bijelo Polje, Montenegro.

 

March 2008: Ghanaian player Solomon Opoku is attacked by Serbian fans of his team, Borac Cacak, when returning from a match. A Serbian court sentences four of the aggressors to a total of four and a half years imprisonment for the racially motivated attack.

 

March 2008: Olympique Marseille players Ronald Zubar, Taye Taiwo and Mamadou Niang, all black, are abused by Russian fans of Zenit St. Petersburg who throw bananas on the pitch and make “monkey chants.” Marseille reports the incidents to UEFA – which then fines Zenit $58,000. Zenit goes on to win the UEFA Cup.

 

In 2003, six years ago a typical scene took place at Moscow Dynamo stadium during the 1-1 draw between Dynamo and Saturn. As Saturn’s midfielder Prince Amoako walked off the pitch, Dynamo fans from the main stand began to shout abuse at him.

 

He had been called “monkey” and “black bastard” already during the match, but this time the Dynamo fans began to make monkey noises to laughter from fans around them.

 

But with everything done to Black players, by far the worst offender, in my opinion — is Spain.

 

Aston Villa forward Dalian Atkinson returned from Spain after one season with Real Sociedad, unhappy with the reception he received, and identifying racial abuse as a major factor in his rapid departure from the Spanish club.

Felix Dja Ettien suffered racial abuse when he first signed for Levante; he was ignored by the coach due to his inability to speak Spanish, and whenever he fell ill he was accused of having malaria or AIDS.

 

During a training session in 2004, a Spanish TV crew filmed Spanish national team head coach Luis Aragones trying to motivate Jose Antonio Reyes by making offensive and racist references to Reyes’ then teammate at Arsenal, French striker Thierry Henry. The phrase used was “De muestra que eres mejor que ese negro de mierda“, translated as “Show that you’re better than that black shit”.

 

The incident caused uproar in the British media with calls for Aragonés to be sacked. However these opinions were not widely supported in Spain, as neither their national football federation nor any politicians would take vigorous action to denounce the remarks.

 

When Spain later played England in a friendly at Bernabeu Stadium soon after, on November 17, 2004, the atmosphere was hostile; whenever black England players touched the ball, a significant proportion of the Spanish crowd began to make monkey chants, in particular to Shaun Wright-Phillips and Ashley Cole.

 

England sang their national anthem before kickoff, Spanish fans also racially chanted against English players – and Aragonés’ remarks were widely blamed by the British press for inciting the incident.

 

After an investigation into the events during the match, UEFA fined Spain’s team the equivalent of $87,000 US dollars and warned that any future incidents would be punished more severely.

 

The incident even drew reactions from then-Prime Minister Tony Blair and Sports Minister Richard Caborn, with Caborn making the claim that the behavior of Spanish fans was twenty or thirty years behind that their British counterparts.

 

UEFA noted that possible punishments could include suspension from major international tournaments or the closure of Spain home international matches to supporters.

 

On February 2007, Aragonés won an appeal over the offence, with the misdemeanor being downgraded to “conduct which could be considered to be racist”.

 

In February 2005, Samuel Eto’o suffered from racially-driven verbal abuse by some spectators from La Liga opponent Real Zaragoza. While playing for FC Barcelona, the Zaragoza fans began making monkey-like chants whenever Eto’o had possession of the ball and peanuts were hurled onto the pitch.

 

Eto’o threatened to leave the pitch in the middle of the game, but was prevented by the intervention of his team-mates and the referee, who rushed to the pitch to calm him down.

His teammate, Ronaldinho, who has suffered similar abuses but less intensely, said he was fed up with the sounds and that if Eto’o had left the pitch, he would have done the same.

 

As Barcelona won 4-1, Eto’o danced like a monkey, saying rival fans were treating him as a monkey.

Referee Fernando Carmona Mendez did not mention the incidents in his match report, commenting only that the behavior of the crowd was “normal”.

The fans were identified to police by fellow spectators and they were fined and banned from attending sporting events for five months.

 

Eto’o declared in the aftermath that the punishment was insufficient and that Real Zaragoza’s stadium should have been closed for at least one year. However, Eto’o's coach, Frank Rijkaard, told him to concentrate on football and to stop talking about the incident.

 

Eto’o has stated that he does not take his children to football matches, due the prevalent racism and has also suggested that players walk off if they become victims of racism.

 

Many other African footballers have also been victims of racial abuse, such as Cameroon’s Idriss Carlos Kameni, who was abused while playing for Espanyol against Atletico Madrid, who were fined €6000.

 

In January of 2009, Spain’s soccer federation fines Real Madrid about $3,900 after a group of fans makes fascist gestures and chants fascist slogans at a match. Match referee Alfonso Perez Burrull cites “extremist or radical symbolism,” and chants making reference to “the gas chamber.”

 

The worst thing that could happen would be a Spanish victory; because it is the cowardly Spaniard fans that seek to be abusive who would become even more out of control when play in La Liga again commences; and their treatment of Black players more abhorrent – and condoned.

 

It is also sad that these clowns don’t have the class of the African hosts – who have welcomed the world with open arms – and little drama. Perhaps it is because the Spanish punks who would be quick to toss bananas and peanuts and make monkey chants are actually intelligent enough to know they would get their fucking asses kicked if they tried that crap on African soil!

 

That to me is the real reason there was apprehension about coming to Africa; payback is a bitch…

 

And revenge is a muthafucka. Go Holland!

 

Sources: Associated Press, BASN, “Sport & National Identity In The Post-War World” “Race & Sport in British Society” “Racism & Football” – University of Leicester.