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What do Black Africans Think of Racism in European Football (Soccer)?

Updated on October 21, 2013
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Denis is a freelancer addicted to football ('s not soccer!). He thinks POLITICS and REALITY TV were invited to dumb us down.

Kevin Prince-Boateng
Kevin Prince-Boateng | Source

European Football and Racism

When Ac Milan's Kevin Boateng and some of his teammates - M'Baye Niang, Urby Emanuelson and Sulley Muntari - were racially taunted by fans from Pro Patria (a lower league side), it was just one incident in many that have plagued the European game. It prompted the debate on how players should react when racially attacked on the pitch. Some like Ac Milan's Mario Balotelli were encouraging the action that Boateng took which involved walking off the pitch mid-match. FIFA thought otherwise and threatened to punish clubs and players that abandon matches - a long line in FIFA policies that have done nothing to stop the cancer.

The frequency of such incidents, especially in Italy and eastern Europe, should really worry FIFA. This is the 21st century and such bigotry should not be grabbing our headlines. Apartheid is dead (or nearly), segregation in the US is a thing of the past and thus, the narrow minded European minority should move with the times because white supremacy stopped being the buzzword with Adolf Hitler's death (and yes, the psycho is dead you neo-Nazi shmucks).

What is even more baffling is some fans abusing their own players! How do these fans actually react when the targeted player scores a goal. How do they justify celebrating victories with the said players. It's getting ever harder for this vocal minority to justice their prejudicial point-of-view. Especially when one considers examples like France winning the 98' worldcup with predominantly black players and more recently, Italy having managed to field a black player - a real surprising milestone for some. This should be a clear indication to everybody that bigots always end up being on the wrong end of the argument.


Africans and their Love of European Football

European football is extremely popular around Africa, particularly the fast-paced English Premier League with teams like Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool amassing a huge fanatical fanbase. Among the local fans, African clubs are fighting a losing battle - for local support - with their more illustrious European counterparts.

Many Africans football fans may not bother to adapt to new trends like popular social media sites like twitter and Facebook, but rarely do they miss out on important European matches. (A word of acknowledgement should go to the ever efficient and dependable South African-based Supertsport for making football accessible to even the underprivileged.)

Furthermore, because of the improved TV coverage of matches in the top European leagues and the fact that people in Africa don't encounter the hassle of trying to access stadium grounds, African fans tend to watch more live matches than even homegrown fans.

An African fan has the opportunity to watch an average of 3 English premier league games in a typical weekend. And add one or two La Liga and Bundesliga games, it becomes a jam packed weekend.

Whether it's a sports bar in urban areas or a ramshackle kiosk situated in the slums, patrons will come in numbers just to watch a Manchester derby or even the more prestigious Spanish 'El Clasico'.

Long story short, Africans have a front row seat, albeit passively, to the distateful occurrences in Europe.

Black Africans and the Racism Phenomena in European Football?

The Racism being witnessed up in Europe becomes kind of a nonstarter on the wide expansive African continent. Africans in the 'diaspora', that is Europe and America, may encounter some form of racism; but back home, that sort of racism hasn't found a foothold in post-colonial Africa.

Thus, Africans cannot, in all honesty, truly empathize when blacks in the diaspora encounter such racial hatred. This especially applies to Africans born in post-independence Africa and outside Apartheid-era South Africa; it's hard for one to relate to the experiences one has never gone through personally. They may sympathize, but don't expect mass protests or a significant public outcry.

Two racial incidents from the English premier league highlight how apathetic African fans are to the disgraceful episodes.

The first is the John Terry incident where the Chelsea captain was accused of racially abusing Queens Park Ranger's Anton Ferdinand. The reaction from most EPL fans was of disgust; a not-so-surprising conclusion considering that he was already one of the most hated footballer in England - outside of Chelsea. Even though the incident has ended up in court, African fans (and in particular, Chelsea fans) have shown very little interest in denouncing the legendary Chelsea stalwart. It seems he is more hated by Manchester and Arsenal fans for being a Chelsea player rather than for being a potential racist.

The second incident involves the very brilliant yet dislikable Uruguayan frontman, Luis Suarez. The enigmatic striker found himself in trouble when he racially insulted Manchester united's French defender, Patrice Evra.

When asked about why they hate Suarez, African fans will probably reference the 2010 world cup in South Africa where the Uruguayan denied Ghana the chance to be the first African team to reach the semis. The fact that he racially abused a fellow black man will matter the least. Moreover, Arsenal fans in Africa don't seem to mind the fact that he may end up moving to the Emirates.


Most people tend to react more to situations or scenarios that personally affect them, and African football fans are no exception. Social justice has only recently become a real issue for discussion as many African countries become more democratically aware.

Thus, it's too early in time to expect African fans to have the same social awareness that has been installed in European fans. What Africans care about is the football which is, unfortunately, one of the cheapest ways to forget their social and economic shortcomings.

Why spoil it by adopting issues that are miles away across the ocean!


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