Racist chants against black players at a recent match in Montenegro show the problem is deeply rooted in European football.
England footballer Danny Rose says the racism he has experienced in football makes him want to quit the sport.
Several black British players were heckled with racist chants and monkey calls by Montenegrin fans during a European Championship qualification match in the Balkan state on Monday.
Two of the footballers, Rose and winger Raheem Sterling, had already been abused in a similar way during an England under-21 match against Serbia in the city of Krusevac in October 2012.
Rose, 22 years old at the time, had picked up a red card because he had chased the ball into the stands in a rage because of fans’ behaviour. Sterling, a team substitute, was just 17 years old at the time.
“It’s a real shame to be coming somewhere to be reminded of what skin colour you are, or what you resemble,” said Sterling, who pointed to his ears in the direction of Montenegrin fans after scoring in the 5-1 win for England on Monday.
"I know what colour I am. It’s just a shame that some people think it’s cool to make fun of you for it,” he added.
Rose later came out to say his experiences with racism made him want to quit football.
“That’s how I feel. I feel I've got five or six more years left and I just want to enjoy football as much as I can. There is so much politics and whatever in football, and I just can’t wait to see the back of it, to be honest,” the Tottenham player said.
Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola expressed his solidarity with Rose by imploring the footballing world “to keep fighting”.
He said: “The best way is to fight and be there every day.”
This man continues to lead by example, on and off the pitch.— Kick It Out (@kickitout) March 25, 2019
All our support to you, @Calteck10 and Danny Rose for standing up to the racist abuse you all had to endure tonight ✊🏿 https://t.co/SCSxCTmURL
Problem is denied or played down
The racism experienced by players during the Montenegro match was not without precedent.
Since the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia, racism has become widespread in football in the Balkans. Only a few months before Roses and Sterling’s experience in Serbia in 2012, Croatian fans had thrown bananas towards Italian Mario Balotelli during the European Championship in Poland.
In 2017, Brazilian midfielder Everton Luiz of Partizan Belgrade left the field in tears after 90 minutes of racist insults from FK Rad fans. Partizan coach Marko Nikolic complained at the time that the incide
A man is telling you he cannot wait to quit his job, a dream he has chased since the age of 9, due to prevalent racism he has faced since (at least) 2012. If you're focusing on what he spends on a night out, you may be missing the point. https://t.co/Aqba4meT6D— Carl Anka (@Ankaman616) April 5, 2019
More often than not, politicians, officials, and fans in the Balkan states deny or trivialise racist outbursts in football.
However, the problem is not just limited to the Balkans or just to fans.
In 2018, Arsenal star Mesut Ozil announced his retirement from the German National Team citing racism. The winger, who is originally Turkish, said he faced racism from the German media and the German Football Association [DFB], particularly its president, Reinhard Grindel. The DFB censured Ozil for an image in which he appeared with the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Ozil shot back after the resulting media firestorm saying: “In the eyes of Grindel and his supporters, I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose.”