“Football is the world’s glue,” my father’s words to me when I was 5 years old. At that moment, I didn’t completely understand what it means. Today, those words still ring in my head. Football is the biggest sport in the world and it brings people together. There are over 250 million players in more than 200 countries. Whether you’re European, Asian, American, South American, or African. The ball remains our one true connection. Football doesn’t know color or race. Hunger, skill, leadership, heart, and pure passion. These are the attributes that should connect us. Racism has grown again in our society. The terror affects life both on and off the pitch.
On February 26, 2006, Samuel Eto’o (starting Forward for F.C Barcelona at the time) was abused by the Zaragoza fans in an away match in Spain (Zaragoza). He was being verbally abused throughout the match.
Coincidently, there was also an influx of African players in Germany in 2006. Nigerian midfielder Adebowale Ogungbure, playing for Sachsen Leipzig received racial abuse from the Hallesche fans throughout his career there. He couldn’t tolerate it any longer and reacted. He did so by mimicking the Nazi gesture. Following, he got arrested as German law prohibits this gesture. Even though the charges got dropped the message wasn’t forgotten. Some fans decided to create a campaign entitled Wirsind Ade (we are Ade). This movement helped counter racism in the Bundesliga.
April 28th, 2014, saw Dani Alves abused by a Villarreal fan. Alves was attempting to take a corner kick when a fan threw a banana right in front of him. He picked up the banana, peeled it, ate half of it, and resumed play. Within two days of the incident, Villarreal identified the culprit. They withdrew his season ticket and slapped him with a lifetime ban. Spanish police arrested 26-year-old David Campaya Lleo.
These are just a few examples of racism in the European game. Unfortunately, there are countless more examples to be found worldwide. This isn’t about listing them all. We need to change. We can’t allow racism to control the world’s biggest sport. The beauty of life is its complexities. These differences bring us closer. Let’s use this sport to continue bringing everyone together. Football is the glue of the world! Let’s not forget that a true ambassador of football shouldn’t see color. The only thing we should see is passion, dedication, skill, leadership, and heart.
Kick It Out is English football’s equality and inclusion organization to challenge discrimination, encourage inclusive practices and campaign for positive change. We are not affiliated with Kick It Out, we just believe in their cause.