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Why Racism in Soccer is Still an Issue

Why racism in soccer is still an issue? Despite all the campaigns to combat racism, there continues to be a huge issue of racist remarks and actions in soccer, from both the fans and players. The recent events with towards Inter Milan’s forward Romelu Lukaku during last week’s Coppa Italia semifinals clash against Juventus led to the recent controversy surrounding racism in the sport.  

Juventus took a late lead with Juan Cuadrado’s goal in the 83rd minute, but a handball in the box by Bremer drew a chance for Inter to tie the match. As Lukaku was preparing to take the penalty, a swarm of racist chants came from the opposing Juventus fans. After scoring the penalty, he was immediately sent off for quieting the fans.  

The company that represents Lukaku put out a statement of the alleged abuse and is demanding an apology from the Juventus fans. After the match, the forward made his own statement on Instagram 

“Been through it in 2019.. and 2023 again..I hope the league really take actions for real this time because this beautiful game should be enjoyed by everyone…Thank you for the supportive messages. F— racism.” 

Several players have come out to support Lukaku, including Memphis Depay and Kylian Mbappe. The reasoning for the red card was a precaution to prevent a brawl from breaking out between the two sides. Juan Cuadrado would also join Lukaku with a red card during extra time.   

The Italian federation is upholding Lukaku’s red card, which did not go over well with Arsenal legend Thierry Henry. While commentating on the Inter Milan and Benfica postgame on CBS Sports Tuesday he said: 

“I go back to common sense. With what the guy (Lukaku) has been hearing. He shushes the crowd and gets a yellow? Really? Have a bit of empathy. 

“If you see a guy is getting abused and he just stands there in a stoic manner. Yes he was cocky and arrogant, but he did it tonight (against Benfica) and did he get a yellow? It is the same celebration. I would have done worse than him if I was getting abuse on the field. The Italian federation keeps the yellow and we are talking about common sense? 

“It is not only Italy. I suffered it everywhere and every time it was always the reaction that got punished. Ive had enough of looking at the ‘No to Racism’ logos on our shirts. I have had enough of the lousy pictures before the game. Can we please do something about this?” 

Lukaku is not the only player a victim of racial abuse this season in Europe. Real Madrid’s Vini Jr has been a target for several racial abuse from away fans. The most notable one was during his trip to Mallorca on Feb 5. The team lost 1-0, but Vini was racial abuse by a Mallorca fan during the match. The fan was a 20-year-old man who was also a season ticket holder. 

The official statement of the incident was: 

“The fan was identified as the author of the racist insults made against the Real Madrid player Vinicius Junior in the RCD Mallorca-Real Madrid game on February 5.″ 

The fan will serve a 12-month ban from the stadium with a $4,419.28 fine. 

In the U.S, there’re rules enforced against racism in sports, following the recent gun violence against POC in recent years. Though the MLS is good at handling this matter, there was an incident of racial abuse between players. 

Newly acquired Red Bulls midfielder Dante Vanzeir made his first start for the team since signing as their designated player from Belgium side Union SG. His debut did not go as plan, as he allegedly called San Jose Earthquakes forward Jeremy Ebobisse a racial slur. This resulted in a 20-minute delay, where the Red Bulls ended up tying during extra time.  

The Red Bulls received even more backlash after head coach Gerhard Struber kept Vanzeir on, despite his actions. Struber made a statement to say that he did not remove him from the match due to the information provided to him at that moment. Vanzeir did come out with an apology and agreed to step away from the club indefinitely.   

Several players have dealt with racial abuse during their career, including Neymar, Mario Balotelli, Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka, Patrice Evra and Didier Drogba. Despite UEFA’s constant campaign of “say no to racism” it is still existing in the sports. Until there’s a change made, it will live in our society until we can find a fix for it.

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