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5 cases of racism in soccer

These were five times the sport was tainted by regrettable acts of racism .

PSG and Istanbul players during a Champions League match

These are some of the most memorable cases of racism in football. / Photo: YT-Champions League

LatinAmerican Post | Thomas Handley

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Leer en español: 5 casos de racismo en el fútbol

In the soccer field, there are numerous anti-racism campaigns that seek to fight this ideology of discrimination. Despite this and the fact that this sport is one of the most diverse in racial terms, there are numerous cases of cultural, racial, and social discrimination. Throughout history, although to varying degrees, they have been sanctioned with the intention of demonstrating rejection by sports organizations. Here are some of the most representative cases.

Luis Aragonés - France vs. Spain, October 2004

In a meeting between the teams of France and Spain, the Spanish coach Luis Aragonés was the protagonist of an act of racism. Seeking to motivate his own player, José Antonio Reyes, the then technical director of the national team wanted to compare him with Thierry Henry, a member of the rival team. "Reyes, come! Tell the black one to play on his own. Tell the black man: I'm better than you! ” Immediately afterward, the coach continued with a series of disqualifying phrases towards the French athlete.

The attitude by the professional was sanctioned with a fine of 3,000 euros by the Competition Committee. This sum was considered ridiculous from the environment of the attacked player. The then Arsenal player stated that, in England, he would have been sanctioned with dismissal from office.

Milan Baros - Stade Rennes vs Lyon, April 2007

During a French Ligue One match, Milan Baros made a dismissive gesture against his Cameroonian rival Stephan Mbia. In the middle of the game, he approached him and covered his nose, hinting that the player gave off a bad smell. Faced with Mbia's statement after the meeting, in which he said he was hurt by the gesture, Baros claimed that he regretted doing it, but that his intentions were not racist.

After reviewing the incident, the club also took action on the situation. Without sanctioning his player, he declared that Baros did not know how to ask his colleague to give him his space, so he opted for the controversial gesture. In addition, they spoke out together with Baros against racism, so the entire conflict was resolved with impunity.

Also read: The best soccer players under 25 in Latin America

Johan Vermeersch - FC Brussels, November 2007

Although racism is not justified, one might think that it is always towards some member of the rival team. Not so in the case of Johan Vermeersch, president of FC Brussels. A large number of lost games and the poor performance of the team repeatedly made the top manager approach to speak with the squad. In this monologue, when addressing the Congolese Matumona Zola, Vermeersch told him to stop thinking about “trees and bananas” and concentrate more on his task.

The derogatory verbal aggression by Vermeersch had a legal impact, as Matumona decided to break the contract, lawyer involved, with the Belgian club. In addition, the sponsor at that time, Kia Motors, also terminated its relationship with the institution, since they did not want to have any relationship with the sports entity. While he denied his racist attitude on the official club page, the president later clarified that he had mentioned the trees and bananas in a joking way, seeking a positive reaction from the player.

Inter Milan fans - Inter vs Naples, December 2018

Spectators can play a relevant role during a match. While his words of encouragement towards the team itself can boost the morale of the players, this was not the case for the Inter Milan fans. During the match against Naples, the chants had Kalidou Koulibaly as a victim, in a despicable act of racism during a sporting event. Despite the request to suspend the match by coach Carlo Ancelotti, the referee decided not to do so, but preferred to ignore both the chants and the coach's request.

This fact, which would seem to be serious enough, becomes even worse when Koulibaly ironically applauded the referee for not acting and ending the match. The player saw the second yellow card of the match, for which he was sent off and suspended for two dates. As if that were not enough, the suspension was not removed later by the organizing body, therefore the player suffered excessive aggression and had to serve the punishment imposed for reacting.

Sebastián Coltescu - PSG vs Istanbul Basaksehir, December 2020

Different from the previous case was that of Sebastián Coltescu and his racist act towards Pierre Webó. As a starting point, it should be noted that it was not a player, a manager, or the fans themselves who acted in a reprehensible manner, but the fourth official. When trying to identify who should be expelled from the match, the assistant referee referred to the player by his skin color. This provoked the reaction of the same, who pointed out on his shirt the logo patch that reads "Respect" devised by UEFA as an awareness campaign.

Second, the outcome of the event was also different from other cases of racism in soccer. Both teammates and rivals were in complete disagreement with the referee's attitude. Upon learning of the situation, they decided to leave the field of play, considering the match suspended.