Major racist incidents in European soccer
A list of some of the major incidents of racism in soccer throughout Europe over the last five years:
- April 2004: Former Manchester United coach Ron Atkinson resigns from television channel ITV after being caught making a racist comment on the air about Chelsea’s Marcel Desailly, who is black. Atkinson, who thought his microphone was off, also quits his job as a columnist for The Guardian newspaper.
- November 2004: Black English players Shaun Wright-Phillips and Ashley Cole are abused by “monkey chants” when Spain hosts England in an exhibition game in Madrid. Spain coach Luis Aragones is also caught on camera racially abusing Arsenal forward Thierry Henry in a bid to motivate Jose Antonio Reyes, Henry’s Arsenal teammate at the time.
- January 2005: As part of an anti-racism initiative in the French league, Paris Saint-Germain’s players wear all-white jerseys and Lens players wear all-black during a French league match at Parc des Princes in Paris. The move backfires as racist elements among PSG’s crowd in the Kop of Boulogne sing “Come on the whites.” The racist overtone is backed up with monkey chants from the Boulogne crowd when Lens players touch the ball. France midfielder Patrick Vieira, present in the crowd that night, vows not to set foot in Parc des Princes again.
- February 2005: Barcelona forward Samuel Eto’o is racially abused at a match in Zaragoza, where fans make monkey chants and throw peanuts onto the pitch when the Cameroon star gets the ball. Referee Fernando Carmona Mendez makes no mention of the incidents in his match report.
- November 2005: Ivory Coast defender Marc Zoro, then playing for Italian team Messina in Serie A, is abused by Inter Milan fans with monkey chants. He attempts to stop the match by walking off with the ball. All matches the following week in Italy are delayed by five minutes as part of an anti-racism initiative in reaction to the abuse aimed at Zoro.
- February 2006: Eto’o is racially abused again at Zaragoza and threatens to walk off the field, with only a desperate intervention by Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard stopping him. Footage of the match shows Eto’o saying “No mas (No more)” as he walks toward the sidelines.
- March 2006: In a match between Sachsen Leipzig and Hallescher FC, Leipzig’s Nigerian midfielder Adebowale Ogungbure is spat at and racially abused by opposition fans. In retaliation, Ogungbure places two fingers above his mouth and salutes the crowd, a reference to Adolf Hitler. Ogungbure is arrested by German police, because it is illegal to make Nazi gestures for political or abusive purposes, but criminal proceedings against him are dropped soon after.
- October 2006: In Serbia, 37 Borac Cacak fans are arrested and eight face criminal charges after racially abusing the club’s Zimbabwean player Mike Temwanjira during a first division match. Several days later, 152 supporters of first division side Rad Belgrade are detained after shouting anti-Muslim slogans during a match against their Novi Pazar rivals. In 2007, UEFA fines the Serbian Football Association for racial insults by fans aimed at black players during the under-21 European championship match against England played in the Netherlands.
- November 2006: PSG fan Julien Quemener is shot and killed by off-duty police officer Antoine Granomort, who is protecting a Jewish fan under attack from a large PSG hate mob after a UEFA Cup match against Israel’s Hapoel Tel Aviv.
- February 2007: St. Johnstone forward Jason Scotland is racially abused by fans of Scottish club Motherwell. The offenders are promptly reprimanded by the spectators around them, then reported to police and match stewards. Motherwell chairman John Boyle issues an apology on behalf of the club.
- March 2007: In a match between Lithuania and France, Lithuania fans unfurl a racist banner directed against France’s many black players, and representing a map of Africa, painted with the French flag colors and a slogan saying “Welcome to Europe.”
- April 2007: Gillingham goalkeeper Kelvin Jack is racially abused by a Rotherham fan, who is banned for life by the club.
- August 2007: Borussia Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller is investigated by the German FA for allegedly calling forward Gerald Asamoah a “black pig.”
- August 2007: Midfielder DaMarcus Beasley, a black American from Indiana, was taunted by fans who made “monkey chants” after he scored his first goal for Glasgow Rangers in a Champions League qualifier at FK Zeta in Bijelo Polje, Montenegro.
- September 2007: After replacing Jose Mourinho as Chelsea manager, Israeli Avram Grant is the subject of death threats, hate mail and anti-Semitic chants. Grant’s father was a Polish survivor of the Holocaust.
- September 2007: Libourne’s Burkina Faso player Boubacar Kebe is ejected by the match referee for reacting to racial abuse from Bastia fans. The “Kebe” affair eventually leads to Bastia being docked points — a rarity.
- February 2008: Morocco defender Abdeslam Ouaddou of Valenciennes climbs into the stands at Metz to confront a fan racially abusing him. The match referee shows Ouaddou a yellow card for unsportsmanlike behavior. The French soccer league (LFP) calls for harsher sanctions against racism.
- April and May 2008: PSG fans racially abuse black passers by and attack an Arab man at a Paris metro station before both the League Cup final against Lens and the French Cup final against Lyon. Despite a police presence, there are no interventions.
- March 2008: Ghanaian player Solomon Opoku is attacked by Serbian fans of his team, Borac Cacak, when returning from a match. A Serbian court sentences four of the aggressors to a total of four and a half years imprisonment for the racially motivated attack.
- March 2008: Olympique Marseille players Ronald Zubar, Taye Taiwo and Mamadou Niang, all black, are abused by Russian fans of Zenit St. Petersburg who throw bananas on the pitch and make “monkey chants.” Marseille reports the incidents to UEFA, European soccer’s governing body, which fines Zenit $58,000. Zenit goes on to win the UEFA Cup.
- September 2008: Portsmouth defender Sol Campbell, who is black, is abused by Tottenham supporters, whose insults include the image of Campbell “hanging from a tree.” In January, four of the fans involved are banned from attending soccer matches for three years after pleading guilty to indecent chanting.
- November 2008: Playing for Middlesbrough against Newcastle, the Egyptian forward Mido is subjected to Islamophobic chanting from a small number of Newcastle fans. Mido had been subjected to similar chants the previous year, again from Newcastle fans.
- January 2009: Spain’s soccer federation fines Real Madrid about $3,900 after a group of fans makes fascist gestures and chants fascist slogans at a match. Match referee Alfonso Perez Burrull cites “extremist or radical symbolism,” and chants making reference to “the gas chamber.”
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