KUALA LUMPUR: Sports are supposed to unite, but unfortunately, football, particularly in Europe, has been marred by hatred.
The world of football is currently challenged by racial issues. Although this is not a new phenomenon, it has become cancerous and the cure has yet to be found.
Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah, with 22 goals on the English Premier League (EPL) stage this season, for example, may have been hailed a hero by his club, but because he of his Arabic background, extreme rival fans attacked his religion when his team took on Chelsea and West Ham recently.
The fact that Salah is often hurled with abusive remarks on the field and also on social media, is something that has upset Mohamed Abdullah Zidan who played alongside Salah in the Egyptian national team.
“When it happened, it’s because of the fans, they act that way to get players distracted. Of course, it’s dirty to see, it’s not nice to see, it’s not a good feeling,” said the former player of Borussia Dortmund in an interview with Bernama News Channel (Astro 502) recently.
Salah is not the only victim of extreme racial provocation. Dark-skinned players in the EPL such as Raheem Sterling, Chris Smalling, Ashley Young, Troy Deeney and Danny Rose have been verbally attacked for their skin colour too.
The world could not have forgotten the incident when Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez called Manchester United defender Patrice Evra “negro”, which led to an eight-match ban for the former Liverpool striker.
Is this what these great players sign up for and is playing for the world’s most popular league worth the stress?
To raise the world’s awareness on how critical racism in Europe is, on April 19 Professional Footballers Association (PFA) comprising EPL stars launched a 24-hour social media boycott campaign.
If EPL is seen as in critical condition, the Italian League – Serie A is even more cruel.
When playing for AC Milan, Mario Balotelli once walked off the field in tears because of abusive remarks from insensitive supporters. So too did Kalidou Koulibaly who played for Napoli against Sulley Muntari for Pescara, after they were called monkeys on the field.
“It’s a sport, it connects people together, connects player together when you need to stand together because it’s a nice moment. You see, people are working together from all over the world to present beautiful sports and game.
“You see players from Africa playing together with players from Europe and players from Egypt, players from Asia and players from anywhere in the world. When you go and start (the match), you see around 60 or 70 thousand people who are sitting together to support their team,” Zidan said.
Even more critical racism has spread to players and the team. Truth is, racism not only kills a footballer’s career but also capable of damaging the league itself.
Aside from EPL and Serie A, two other European leagues, Spanish La Liga and Germany’s Bundesliga are also not spared from racism.
The approach taken by Bundesliga is seen as most effective as it emerged to have less racial provocation cases among the three leagues.
According to Bundesliga International chief executive officer, Robert Klein, racism does not have a place in football or anywhere else in the world.
For that, Bundesliga appointed a subsidiary called ‘SHIFTGHON’, to tackle such issues through charity work.
“And throughout the season, we do different activities. One of the most recent is we have kicked out racism club and we have done that for the last two years to the club involved, and we give the message, in football, in life, no racism what so ever.
“I think the best way to tackle it is by answering it on the pitch and then making sure you find the people responsible for it, and you punish him,” said Klein who was in Malaysia to attend World Football Summit last week.
The Bundesliga league is a professional football league in Germany averaging the highest stadium attendance in the world. – Bernama