AC Milan

Racism in football: The dark side of the beautiful game

Be a Panda is black, he’s white, he’s Asian, and he’s chubby because he’s eating a lot. He’s against bullying so Be a Panda”


Patrice Evra started the Be a Panda campaign

Racism is a very sensitive issue. It is not limited to any particular walk of life. From the corporate world to the entertainment industry, racism can be seen anywhere and everywhere. Even in sports, racism is a common phenomenon. There have been reports of racism in top footballing countries like Italy and Russia. Several footballers have spoken out against this heinous act of discrimination. It’s funny to see that the sport that has Brazil as its most successful nation, is still a victim of racism. Be it the fans or fellow footballers, racist slurs can come from anywhere. Kevin Prince Boateng, Ashley Cole and Patrice Evra have felt the brunt of racist slurs during the peak of their playing careers.

Most Notable Cases

Racism is not limited to a particular league. Even the most experienced veterans and the up & coming talented teenagers have been victims. While some take it seriously, others just shrug it off jokingly. Here are some of the most famous cases:

  • Ashley Cole and Shaun Wright-Phillips

Before a friendly between Spain and England in 2004, Luis Aragonés, ex-Spain coach, was seen encouraging Jose Antonio Reyes by using racial slurs against Thierry Henry. Reyes was a teammate of Henry at that time at Arsenal. Aragonés used a phrase that roughly translates to “Show that you are better than that black shit.” The tensions were high between the two nations. When these two met, Spanish fans directed monkey chants towards the black players in the English team. This incident resulted in UEFA fining the Spanish FA with 87,000USD. This event also led to a strain in political relations between the two countries.

  • John Terry called Anton Ferdinand a ”f***ing black c**t”


John Terry [Left] and Anton Ferdinand

The incident, held in 2011, caused incongruity in the English dressing room. Anton Ferdinand who is the brother of Rio Ferdinand was a part of the QPR team that played against Chelsea. Anton accused Terry of calling him a “f***ing black c**t” during the game. This accusation led to a trial against John Terry. Ashley Cole was a witness in defence of John Terry causing Rio Ferdinand to call him a “choc ice” on Twitter. Ferdinand was fined 45,000 pounds. Terry was later convicted and made to pay a fine of 220,000 pounds. Three of the back four of English National team were embroiled in this incident leading to an uneasy atmosphere in the dressing room.

  • Mario Balotelli and Kevin-Prince Boateng

The ex-Milan teammates became the most famous victims of racism in Italy. Balotelli was subject to monkey chants from Juventus fans during his time at Inter. This led the Old Lady being given a one-match home fan ban in 2009. Kevin Prince Boateng led his team off the field when treated with racist chants. In a friendly match against lower league side Pro Patria, Boateng endured racial abuse from Patria’s fans. He along with his teammates left the field and the match was called off.


  • Luis Suarez calling Patrice Evra a “little black man”


Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez tussle for the ball at Anfield

Manchester United and Liverpool share a storied rivalry. An ugly chapter was added to it in 2011 during the heated argument between Evra and Suarez. The Reds striker called Evra a ‘negrito’, a Spanish word which means “little black man”. In the subsequent case hearing, Suarez was declared guilty and charged with 40,000 pounds. Suarez said that the word was meant to be taken in a friendly sense like it is used in South America. This explanation was not accepted by the FA committee.

Racism in Russia

The FIFA World Cup is just over a year away. Russia will be the hosts of the next footballing extravaganza. The country has had a history of racism. Zenit St. Petersburg, one of Russia’s most famous club had an unwanted record of not signing a minority player until 2012. Zenit’s fans have had the worst record of discrimination against homosexuals and minority players. Russia typically has a vocal and vociferous fan base.


Roberto Carlos played in Russia for a season

Roberto Carlos, Real Madrid and Brazil legend was subjected to racist activities twice in a month. Carlos played in Russian Premier League for just one season with Anzhi Makhachkala. There have been reported cases of racism in high profile league matches as latest as September 2014. FIFA needs to make sure that cases of racism are kept to a minimum in a country hosting the World Cup.

Campaigns against Racism

Several campaigns have been launched to regulate, diminish and abolish the practice of racism from the beautiful game.



  • KICK IT OUT, a core member of FARE (Football Against Racism in Europe)

FIFA disbanded its task force against racism, claiming that the work is done. This action by FIFA was very much off the mark. Racism still needs opposition, it needs to be completely uprooted from the game. Campaigns such as “Be A Panda” are sure to increase awareness among the general footballing community. There are many out there who believe that racism is no longer a problem. Those people need to stand corrected and face the reality. Racism is a problem which will slowly but surely find its way out of the game.

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