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My First Post April 12, 2009

Posted by masterj27 in Sports and Entertainment, World Affairs.
Tags: ,

So a lot of you have recently been encouraging me to post on this blog. Unfortunately, unlike many of the people who post here, I’m not too into politics and don’t really pay attention to what Harry Reid thinks about the recent stimulus bill. Obviously these things are important to society, and I wouldn’t venture to say I don’t dabble in some of these topics, but for my first post I wanted to write about something that I’m very passionate about and something that I think you will find interesting. Most of you can guess that I’m going to write about football (soccer), but I’m going to delve into something that many of you may not know about.

Football is an international sport. The World Cup is one of the most widely viewed events on the planet, and it brings together an enormous amount of people from cultures all over the world. Sadly, even in the spirit of friendly competition, the footballing world has been plagued by a very serious and barbaric epidemic: racism. Many of us would probably think that racism means white people negatively discriminating against African-Americans, but on the world stage this is not the case. Players, referees, and even fans are negatively discriminated against not only because of the color of their skin, but also their nationality and religion. A major problem with this issue is that the guilty parties are everywhere: the fans are guilty, the referees are guilty, the administrations are guilty, and the players themselves are guilty, just to name a few. To give you an idea, here are some examples of what has been going on (from Wikipedia):

Germany – Leipzig’s Nigerian midfielder Adebowale Ogungbure was spat at and called ‘nigger’ and ‘ape’ by opposition fans, who later aimed monkey noises at him. In retaliation he placed two fingers above his mouth and saluted at the crowd – an obvious reference to Adolf Hitler. Ogungbure was arrested by German police, as it is illegal to make Nazi gestures for political or abusive purposes, but criminal proceedings were dropped 24 hours later.

Lithuania – On March 24, 2007, in a match between France and Lithuania, a racist banner was unfurled by Lithuanian supporters. Directed against France’s black players, it represented a map of Africa, painted with the French flag colors (blue, white and red), with a slogan of “Welcome to Europe”. (See Pic)

Netherlands – Ajax fans have the tradition of using Jewish and Israeli symbols to express their allegiance. Regularly, the supporters wave large Star of David flags and scream Joden! Joden! (“Jews! Jews!”) to fire up their team. Die-hard Ajax supporters call themselves “F-Siders” or “Joden” – Dutch for “Jews” – a nickname that reflects the team’s and Amsterdam’s Jewish roots. However, opposing supporters are known to use anti-Semitic remarks to express their antipathy towards Ajax. This is expressed in slogans such as Hamas, hamas, joden aan het gas (Hamas, Hamas, Jews into the gas) or producing hissing sounds that imitate the flow of gas.

Spain – During a training session in 2004, a Spanish TV crew filmed Spanish national team head coach Luis Aragonés trying to motivate José Antonio Reyes by making offensive and racist references to Reyes’ then teammate at Arsenal, Thierry Henry. The phrase used was “Demuestra que eres mejor que ese negro de mierda”, translated as “Show that you’re better than that black shit”.

England – On 21 April 2004, Ron Atkinson resigned from ITV after he was caught making a racist remark live on air about the black Chelsea F.C. player Marcel Desailly: believing the microphone to be switched off, he said, “…he [Desailly] is what is known in some schools as a fucking lazy thick nigger“.

The incidents I have shared here all come from Europe, the main source of the problem. European club football is regarded as the highest quality level of competition, meaning if you play in Europe, you’re a baller. This fact makes Europe the Mecca of association football and attracts a lot of interest from high quality players interested in playing football there. Europe can be viewed as a globalized continent; many people who were born in these countries have origins in other parts of the world. I would hope that some of you would remember the headbutting incident with Zinedine Zidane (France) and Marco Materazzi (Italy) in the 2006 World Cup Final. Zidane is regarded as one of the best players ever to don the jersey of Les Bleus, but did you know that he has origins in Algeria? While this globalization is prevalent, many Europeans are instilled with the idea that they need to preserve their cultural heritage and the fast moving globalization effect is taking away from their identity. This is the root of the racism crisis. The problem is still widespread, but some organizations have made efforts to curb racism.

FIFA (International Federation of Association Football, translated from French) and UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) are the two football governing bodies that have had to deal the most with these issues. Just to clarify, UEFA is just one department of FIFA, the other departments come from the other continents of the world (CONMEBOL is the South American department, CONCACAF is the North American department, etc.). These associations have done their part to institute harsher penalties for those parties found guilty of racist acts, including having teams play games in empty stadiums, suspending players/coaches for longer periods of time, and banning fans and fan groups from games for life.

The “Stand Up Speak Up” program was a collaborative effort started by Nike, Inc. and French footballer Thierry Henry. Henry, a black player of Antillean (Caribbean) decent has been a target of racism in football almost since the day he started playing. The main incident that sparked Henry to begin thie Stand Up Speak Up program was the event with Spanish coach Luis Aragonés mentioned above. The campaign was an effort to raise money to fund different anti-racism groups and establishments. While many would argue that these anti-racism organizations do nothing to help, they make little changes in peoples ideology and help educate through visual advertisements and pamphlets about globalization and the negative effects of racism. To help raise money, the program sold wristbands much like the Lance Armstrong Foundation and the Live Strong bands. The Stand Up Speak Up wristbands are interlocked white and black bands that display the Stand Up Speak Up logo on them. I have one that I wear on my left wrist at all times. The limited time campaign was a success: 5 million wristbands were sold and different non-profits were funded to help educate people about racism. Henry’s dedication to the program led him to be featured on Time Magazine’s list of “Heroes and Pioneers” in the Time 100 list of 2007. Here is a commercial for the movement featuring Thierry Henry, Rio Ferdinand (England), Ronaldinho (Brazil), and Ruud van Nistelrooy (Netherlands): Click Here.

I hope I’ve brought a little insight into a problem that is affecting the footballing world.


1. jflack4prez - April 13, 2009

Nice post man, I enjoyed it. Especially the part about how soccer fits into the larger issue of the globalization of the European continent, and those countries’ identity crisis.

Keep up the good work

2. presto21 - April 12, 2009

Wow. Let me get my hands on one of those wrist bands man.

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