The problem of racism is a pandemic on its own all over the world but it is put on display more in sports, especially football. A weekend would not pass without targeted online abuses being directed to footballers.
Two incidents occured recently where players accused another player of racism on the football field. Rangers Glen Kamara accused Slavia Prague’s Ondrej Kudela of racially abusing him in their Europa League round of 16 match.
Over the weekend in Spain in a match between Cadiz and Valencia. Valencia’s Mouctar Diakhaby accused Cadiz’s Juan Cala of racially abusing him forcing the match into a temporary halt. Cala has since denied all allegations and claimed he’s a victim of online lynching.
England born ex-Nigerian international, Samuel Sodje, who spent all of his playing career in Europe and was a victim of racism at one point and the other during his playing days says the issue is way deeper than football and awareness has to be taken to the streets and communities.
He recounted an experience of a brilliant man of the match performance that was met with a racial abuse by the supporter of a club he played for after the match
“I won’t mention the club’s name but I was playing for a football club, so I got man of the match, it was a big club,” he told OJB Sports. “After the match I was driving my car and saw a guy from the side mirror who was wearing my kit and speeding.
“I thought he was gonna come to me and say well done for being the man of the match, he came and say “fucking go back to your country” my own supporter.”
There are many people who still deny racism and feel it is an excuse by black players. Sodje expresses hatred towards such acts and comments. “What I hate most is when people say we black players are just saying it because we like excuses,” he said.
“But until you’ve been in a situation where you have been racially abused you won’t know how bad it is, it’s terrible.”
A near incident occurred in a UEFA Champions League match last year between PSG and Istanbul Basaksehir where Romanian referee Sebastian Coltescu was accused of racially abusing Pierre Webo.
UEFA cleared Coltescu of racism and ruled it as “use of inappropriate language.” Demba Ba who led the charge that night described the word “black” as reportedly used by Coltescu as being used carelessly without regard for context and happenings around the world, especially in football.
Sodje also said he finds relating topics about footballers earnings to what it is worth in other countries especially Africa; “Even comments like you get paid a lot of money, that must be a lot of money in Africa, that’s racism. We both live and work here so why would you say my money would be big money in Africa.” he said.
He believes to combat racism, awareness must be taken beyond the footballing communities and taken to the street and daily lives. “Until we create awareness, and this is not a football problem,” he said.
“It’s more than football. Until we get it right from the streets, from the community to the top, we’d be struggling.”
Sodje played for many clubs in England in his career including Leeds United, Reading, West Brom, Watford and Portsmouth amongst others and starred for the Super Eagles four times between 2005 and 2009.