I’ll be rooting against David Beckham and his LA Galaxy teammates when they play my Houston Dynamo in the MLS title game on Sunday but he definitely gets a thumbs up from me for speaking up and speaking out about the long festering problem of racism in international soccer.
‘The beautiful game’ as it’s called has a ugly side in terms of the virulent racism that rears its head in matches. In some European nations they make monkey sounds or throw bananas at players of African descent.
Even some of the superstar players aren’t above using the N-word during a match multiple times to taunt players and it ain’t a new problem.
I remember reading a December 1978 EBONY magazine story about Erwin Kostedde, a German soccer star who was the first African descended player and superstar in the Bundesliga. The article chronicled his search for his American GI father and there was a paragraph in it that referenced the crowds shouting at him ‘Du fauler Neger” (Lazy n—-r) when he had the ball taken from him during a match.
A firestorm of criticism has erupted in Britain after FIFA president Sepp Blatter made comments during an interview broadcast on CNN in which he minimized the racism in international soccer and said it should be settled with a handshake. It also comes as Britain’s Premier League is investigating charges that Liverpool striker Luis Suarez and Chelsea defender John Terry racially abused black players during league games.
Asked if he thought there was racism on the pitch, Blatter told CNN: ‘I would deny it. There is no racism, there is maybe one of the players towards another, he has a word or a gesture which is not the correct one, but also the one who is affected by that.
‘He should say that this is a game. We are in a game, and at the end of the game, we shake hands, and this can happen, because we have worked so hard against racism and discrimination. I think the whole world is aware of the efforts we are making against racism and discrimination. And on the field of play sometimes you say something that is not very correct, but then at the end of the game, the game is over and you have the next game where you can behave better.”
The 75 year old Blatter was just reelected to another four year term amidst a corruption scandal and there were calls for his resignation as FIFA president with even British prime minister David Cameron putting him on blast.
He tried to calm the firestorm by appearing in a photo op with Tokyo Sexwale, the South African government minister and anti-apartheid activist who was imprisoned at Robben Island, and it only poured gasoline on the controversy.
But Beckham had this to say when asked about it.
“I think the comments were appalling for a lot of people,” he said. “I don’t think those comments were very good for this game.” Beckham didn’t call on Blatter to step down from the FIFA presidency as others have.but was adamant about ending racism in soccer.
“I have no power with who goes or who stays within FIFA and I don’t wish to have that,” he said. “But there obviously is and has been racism throughout soccer and in life. I do think especially being around the England team and being around the FA, the FA do a lot of work with kicking racism out of the game.
“I think they have made huge strides in the last 10-15 years. But it’s still there, and it can’t just be swept under the carpet and it can’t just be dealt with just a handshake. … It’s not how racism should be treated. We need to work hard to keep it out of the game and keep it out of life in general.”
Amen Becks. And good luck in any match you play except when it’s against the Dynamo or international ones against Team USA.