Racism from fans in international soccer a growing problem that is finally being properly addressed


In protest of racial slurs being hurled at black players by fans, players have taken to wearing anti-racist messages on their jerseys.

In late February, during a Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea, play was called to a halt after a black Chelsea defender complained to the referee that he was the subject of racism with rival fans mimicking monkey noises at him and his team. New protocol in England allows the referee to end the game if fans choose to ignore two warnings about racist chants, and this is only the first step in ensuring safety for the players.

During the 2018-19 season, the Premier League released a report from an anti-racism group that showed that sexual, religious, and racial discrimination had increased by 32 percent from the year before. That same report indicated that 65 percent of those acts were racist in nature. The problem not only lies in players being racially abused but also in the limp and weak punishments handed out to those involved in the incidents.

One of the worst incidents in the recent months was during a match between England and Bulgaria in October, which saw the Bulgarian crowd holding up Nazi salutes and mimicking monkey chants at Black English players. England’s organization sent out a statement saying that they were disgusted with the rival’s fans’ actions and that serious action had to be taken to ensure that it never happened again. After the pressure got too much to handle, the president of the Bulgarian Football Union resigned before UEFA fined the Bulgarian team $83,000 and banned fans from entering their stadiums for two games.

The problem also lies within the media, where in many instances we see newspapers and websites targeting black players but praising white players. Manchester City star Raheem Sterling is very outspoken about racism in the press and is always being criticized by the media himself. He called out “The Tabloid” press coverage of two up and coming soccer players who bought houses for their mothers. One player who was black was heavily criticized for buying his mom a very expensive house, while the white player was praised for his act of kindness. 

“This young black kid is looked at in a bad light, which helps fuel racism and aggressive behavior,” Sterling said. “So, for all the newspapers that don’t understand why people are racist in this day and age, all I have to say is have a second thought about fair publicity and give all players an equal chance.” Sterling had also been targeted in the press for buying his mother a house hours after coming home from a disappointing Euro 2016 loss. 

Many players, including Romelu Lukaku, Taison, and Aubameyang, have turned to social media to demonstrate their anger and frustration with the lack of response to the many reports of racism. 

During the start of the 2020-21 campaign, players wore “Black Lives Matter” on the back of their jerseys and took a minute of silence before every game. Olympic Heights junior Diogo Verde, speaking on the players’ silent protest, said, “It’s a step in the right direction for sure, but more needs to be done in order for there to be a long-lasting impact on the sport and for people to really understand that racial abuse is not something to joke about.” 

“There’s a long way to go,” added OH senior Matthew Cartagena, “but if the people that run these big clubs and organizations come together to tackle the problem, then it would make it a lot easier.”

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