Racism and European Football

Authored by: Mark Doidge

Routledge Handbook of Sport, Race and Ethnicity

Print publication date:  September  2016
Online publication date:  September  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138816954
eBook ISBN: 9781315745886
Adobe ISBN: 9781317596677


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In July 2015, the FC Ufa and ex-Arsenal player Emannuel Frimpong was sent off for reacting to Spartak Moscow fans who aimed racist chants at him throughout the game. Three years earlier, members of the Landscrona fan-group at Zenit St. Petersburg wrote an open letter to the club stating that they should not sign ‘dark-skinned players’ or ‘sexual minorities’. Despite media stories to the contrary, these episodes are not unique to Russia or Eastern Europe. In January 2013, Kevin-Prince Boateng, AC Milan’s Ghanaian midfielder, walked off the pitch in a friendly match against Pro Patria. He had received sustained racist abuse from the home fans and was supported by his teammates in his decision to leave the field. These small numbers of examples demonstrate the pervasiveness of racism in football across Europe. Yet these events do not only take place in the football stadium. The British anti-racism organisation Kick It Out released findings into racism in English football in May 2015. Not only did they reveal that racism continues to be a major problem in English football, but they demonstrated how it was finding new mediums of expression. Social media in particular was frequently used to target players. While at Liverpool in 2015, the Italian striker Mario Balotelli received over 8,000 abusive tweets, half of which included racist comments. Frequently, fans are the only ones blamed for racism by the authorities and media. It would be a fallacy to argue that these attitudes do not occur elsewhere in the football hierarchy, particularly given the paucity of non-white players in administration and coaching across Europe. Indeed, details of text messages sent between former Cardiff City manager Malky Mackay and his sporting director Iain Moody in 2013 showed how racist and anti-Semitic language was used to denigrate players and agents.

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