Racism in Soccer

We know that 2020 has been a tough year and a dark place for almost everyone across the world. It is not ideal to live through a pandemic, but we have seen more problems than just a virus. It was the end of May when we saw the video that not only turned the country around but the whole world. The death of George Floyd sparked worldwide protests and showed us all that there is still racial injustice today. Now what I am focusing on in this story is the racial injustice that faces the world of soccer, and with so many cases of racism in soccer I will be looking at three of the biggest racist situations over the past year:

  1. Bulgarian Fans Keep Their Bad Antics Going

A group of Bulgarian fans being escorted out of the Vasil Levski National Stadium in Sofia, Bulgaria following racial abuse toward the England players.

(Photo Courtesy abcnews.go.com)

On October 14, 2019, the England National team went into Sofia, Bulgaria to take on Bulgaria in a European Cup Qualifier. The stadium had 5,000 seats blocked off due to past racist antics from the Bulgarian fans in the last two home games that Bulgaria had played. UEFA (Union Of European Football Associations) already knew that the Bulgarian fans were trouble makers which is why those 5,000 seats were blocked off. But once again the Bulgarian fans did not behave themselves. The fans shouted monkey noises towards the black players of England, as well as participating in nazi salutes. The referee followed protocol, and halted the match and made an announcement on the stadium speakers warning the fans about their antics. The Bulgarian captain Ivelin Popov even went over to the fans pleading with them to stop. The game resumed only to be stopped again after the antics continued, which is when a group of fans were ejected from the stadium to try and create a more peaceful environment for the English players.

England went on to secure a 6-0 win, but some of the England players after the game said that they could still hear racist sayings even after the fans were ejected. Not only England but fans and players across the world wanted Bulgaria to face extreme discipline for their constant racist acts. UEFA went on to ban fans from the next Bulgarian home game which forced them to play in an empty stadium. Many still think that UEFA did not punish Bulgaria enough, and believe that the antics would continue.

2. Player Tries To Fight Back Against The Fans

Taison (Pictured Right) of Ukrainian team Shakhtar Donetsk seen visibly upset

following racial chants aimed at him from fans of Dynamo Kyiv.

(Photo Courtesy si.com)

November 10, 2019, Dynamo Kyiv and Shakhtar Donetsk of the Ukranian Premier League faced off in Donetsk, Ukraine for a league match. It was in the 74th minute of the game when Shakhtar’s Taison showed his middle finger and kicked the ball towards the Kyiv fan section. It is not clear what the fans said but it was racist chants towards Taison which is what made him act out towards the fans. The racist comments were brought to the attention of the referee by Taison’s teammate who then followed UEFA protocol by ordering a stadium announcement and halted the match. He continued protocol and had the players go into the locker room for the time being. Taison was visibly upset and seen crying while walking off the field. He was consoled by both his teammates as well as Dynamo Kyiv players. The last step of UEFA protocol would be to abandon the match and complete it another day, but this step was not taken by the referee. The players came back onto the field which is when Taison received a red card for his antics against the Kyiv fans racially abusing him. He would go into the locker room and his team would complete the 1-0 victory. Taison later took to Instagram and said, "I will never shut up in such an inhuman and despicable act. My tears were of indignation, repudiation and helplessness, helplessness that I could do nothing at that moment! When a player receives a red card they also can not participate in the next game that they play. FIFPRO who represents players who are racially abused disputed with the Ukranian Football Association to not give Taison the additional ban, but the Ukranian FA upheld their ban. Dynamo Kyiv would receive a $20,000 fine for their fans abuse and were forced to play their next game with no fans.

3. Racial Abuse From The Referee

Demba Ba (Pictured Left) of Istanbul seen arguing with the main official follow an

alleged racial comment from the fourth official toward one of Istanbul’s assistant coaches.

(Photo Courtesy independent.co.uk)

On December 8, 2020, Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) were set to take on Istanbul Basaksehir in the famous Parc des Princes in Paris. This game would be played without fans due to the coronavirus pandemic which makes it a very interesting story of racial abuse. The game started at 9:00pm local time but would soon be stopped. In the thirteenth minute one of the Istanbul assistants, Pierre Webo was arguing with the official over a foul call. It later escalated and the fourth official (who stands next to the benches and assists the main referee and deals with player substitutions) called the main official over to the benches. The fourth official wanted the main referee to red card and send off Webo. The main referee asked what person to red card, which is when the fourth official pointed to Webo and said “ala negru” in Romanian. In English that translates to “the black one”. This upsetted Istanbul which sparked arguments on the sideline, with Istanbul player Demba Ba leading the dispute. Ba told the fourth official, “you never say this white guy, you say this guy, so why when you mention a black guy you have to say this black guy”. The game was not just halted but suspended after the Istanbul players refused to keep going and walked off the field and into the locker rooms. PSG backed them and as well walked into their locker room. The game was set to resume about 20 to 30 minutes later, but some of the Istanbul players still refused to go back out and play. The refusal forced the game to be postponed to the next day without that fourth official, where PSG went on to win 5-1. The fourth official is set to avoid punishment from UEFA by quitting and retiring from officiating.

-Story by Caden Eatherton '21