EL PASO — “There is no racism [on the field], but maybe there is a word or gesture that is not correct. The one affected by this should say this is a game and shake hands.”
That is the answer to racism that Sepp Blatter, the president of FIFA, the international governing body of soccer, proposed when interviewed by CNN back in 2011. Not only did he deny that racism exists, which is not the only time he (or FIFA) has denied racism, he proposed a preposterous solution to battle racism when two high profile cases of racism were going on in England.
Barcelona star Daniel Alves, who is Brazilian, along with his teammate and compatriot Neymar Santos have decided to not battle racism with something as simplistic as a handshake. They have taken to social media to spread their message, “Somos todos macacos”, Portuguese for “We are all monkeys.”
It started during a Spanish league game, when Barcelona FC were playing a game in Villarreal and in the 77th minute a fan from Villarreal threw a banana at Alves, who was about to take a corner kick.
This it not the first time a banana has been thrown to a player of color or of black ancestry, since many players have suffered the same insult. However, what Alves did with the banana has never been seen before. He picked it up, took a big bite out of it, threw it aside, and took the corner kick as nothing of note had happened.
After the game, Neymar posted a picture on Instagram, holding a banana with his son holding a plush banana with the caption, “#somostodosmacacos, #weareallmonkeys”. Since he posted this picture many other soccer players from Africa to the United States to Europe have posted similar pictures of them holding bananas with the caption “We are all monkeys.”
Many black players before have been abused by having bananas and other fruit thrown at them and chants of “n—er” and “monkey” among other things. These players as a response have made a statement by threatening to walk away mid game or actually walking out of games.
High profile players like Kevin Prince-Boateng, Mario Balotelli, and Samuel Eto’o have resorted to these measures, as they cannot cope with the abuse from the so-called fans.
Racism in sporting events here in the United States is somewhat rare with just some extreme cases every now and again, and when racist episodes do happen, there are very severe repercussions on the matter instituted by sporting organizations.
A recent example would be how the National Basketball Association came down with a severe punishment on Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who was banned for life from the league, for his derogatory statements against African Americans.
But in other continents such as Europe and South America the situation is a bit different. With soccer being the popular sport there is only one organization that oversees the punishment when racist outbursts happen.
People may ask, why does racism exist in a game that reaches a worldwide audience and is so diverse with the players coming from all corners of the world? No one really knows why racism exists but tracing back the history of the first black players that played in Europe can explain why people have racism ingrained in them.
During the 1960’s, immigrants from Africa, the West Indies, and all over descended on Europe for a myriad of reasons and as they came to their new countries they were met with hostility. As most of the migrants coming into Europe were of a dark skin tone, and most of the people living there originally were white there was a clash of cultures that ensued.
As the immigrants adapted to the European lifestyle, they played the sport of soccer and made the hard journey to play in the first division leagues in Europe.
However, the same fans that were hostile towards the immigrants, released their hostility towards the players on the pitch. This same antagonism can be explained by the amount of Neo-Nazi supporters that live in Europe, the remnants of World War II, that go to matches and openly share their racist views while supporting their teams.
Sam Lopresti, a journalist who researched racism in soccer in Italy, wrote about how these European countries live with “old-world country views.” He elaborated, “The old ways, in which racism was a common and accepted part of life, are still very much alive…” He also wrote about how the constant influx of immigrants and the xenophobia of non-black Europeans only intensifies this problem.
Although xenophobia is, undoubtedly, the most accepted theory of why racism in soccer exists there are many views as well, such as jealousy, hooliganism, and as former West Bromwich Albion player Cyrille Regis said, “Inherently it’s about the conditions of individual’s heart… If someone wants to do it from their initial ignorance or their own heart condition… I don’t think any law can stop it.”
Although FIFA has campaigns to battle racism in place, as well as fines and punishments for any club that lets their fans engage in racist behaviors, racism is still runs rampant in the sport.
FIFA as a governing body does not do enough to battle racism and although they have the means to try to stop it, they do very little in this fight and racism continues to happen at soccer grounds around the world.
But it is silly to say that FIFA alone has the power to end all racism in the sport because they alone cannot stop racism. It starts with the people, how they were raised, what ideals they have as they grow up and until we as a species realize that we cannot hate someone based on the tone of their skin racism will continue to exist.
But the message of the Brazilian players rings true. As evolution shows that we basically evolved from apes, and are nothing more than a species of highly functional, evolved apes, it is safe to say…
#SomosTodosMacacos, #WeAreAllMonkeys, #SomosTodosMonos.