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Soccer player advocates for equality after racist abuse

by Panagiotis Argitis - Editor-In-Chief
Wed, Apr 3rd 2019 03:00 pm
Hate Filled Chants: During a game versus Montenegro, English soccer player Raheem Sterling (above) heard racist chants coming from the stands. Sterling looked at the crowd, smiled and laughed as the racist remarks were being shouted towards him and his teammates.
Hate Filled Chants: During a game versus Montenegro, English soccer player Raheem Sterling (above) heard racist chants coming from the stands. Sterling looked at the crowd, smiled and laughed as the racist remarks were being shouted towards him and his teammates.

The game of soccer, or fútbol for the purists out there, is followed by billions of people. The sport is responsible for a worldwide culture of fans, spectators and supporters of whom create a diverse community that stretches over multiple countries. 

While soccer is supported by a huge network of profit from television rights, sponsors and businesses alike, it has been and has remained driven by its fans’ love. Yet, sadly enough, where there is love, there is hate that comes with it. 

Like anything else that has two competing sides, the world of sports and organizations within it have always had supporters and opposers. Due to the nature of a sport, one side of a fandom will always be against the other, as there can only be one winner in a competition. In most cases, soccer fans will support their favorite team and find an opponent in who their team plays. While this is true for a majority of fans, some opposing views are fueled by hate, with the most prominent form being racism. 

The reality of racism playing a part in how fans interact with sports teams and their players has been an idea that's been around since the very beginning of the practice. Like any other sport, soccer athletes have been victims of racism as well, with the most recent and wide-scale case being that of Manchester City forward, Raheem Sterling. 

The Jamaican-born English player has risen to the very top of European soccer ranks throughout his time in England, trading in his original Liverpool shirt, where he developed his craft, for the sky blue Manchester City shirt, where he is currently perfecting it. While his soccer pedigree increased, the racist abuse toward him has, too.

In England’s 5-1 Euro qualifying victory over Montenegro this past week, racism made its way onto the pitch once again. Throughout the match, Sterling and teammates Danny Rose and Callum Hudson-Odoi faced racism from  both their own English fans and opposing fans, who chanted against and racially targeted the three players of color. 

Following the conclusion of the game, Sterling and England national soccer team Manager Gareth Southgate, demanded a ban for Montenegro’s national team through the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), but a response is still pending from the governing body. 

“They (UEFA) can't do anything; society has to do it,” former England player John Barnes said to CNN. “Football can do nothing. Until we get rid of racism in society, football will mirror society.”

Along with Sterling and Barnes, current Liverpool Manager Jurgen Klopp also spoke out on the happenings of England’s match against Montenegro. 

“I don't know what to say about it really,” Klopp said to SportsStar. “I'm so disappointed that at this moment, in our world, something like this is still possible, that people still use their voice for completely the wrong thing.”

Despite facing racist abuse throughout a majority of his playing career, Sterling has been an advocate and a commanding force in efforts made to combat racism toward sports athletes. Back in 2018, the forward took his thoughts to social media where he spoke on the case of two Manchester City players, one white and one black, who bought upscale homes for their mothers and were headlined differently by media. 

The English news outlet DailyMail used the headline “Young Manchester City footballer, 20, on £25,000 a week splashes out on a mansion on market for £2.25 million despite never having started a Premier League match” for the story on the black athlete, and used the headline “Manchester City starlet Phil Foden buys new £2m home for his mum” for the story on the white athlete. 

“I am not normally the person to talk a lot but when I think I need my point to be heard I will speak up,” Sterling said via Instagram. “This young black kid is looked at in a bad light, which helps fuel racism and aggressive behavior.”  

The English star composed the Instagram message following a match between Manchester City and Chelsea in December of 2018 where he received racial abuse while in the process of taking a corner kick. Chelsea and English fans chanted at the player with discriminatory words and racist comments. 

The Instagram message received both praise and hate. When asked by The New York Times if the way he is covered by the media is rooted in the fact that he is black, Sterling said “one million percent.”

Racism has remained a plague to the world in which we live in, with society continuing to push and promote for hate in what seems like a never-ending cycle. The same plague is found in today’s sports.