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5 instances of footballers taking a stand against racism (Part I)

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The beautiful game of football is no stranger to racism as it has been prevalent in the sport for several decades.

Footballers have been time and again subjected to harsh racist comments on their skin color as well as ethnicity. Despite campaigns like “No to racism”, the sad and unfortunate culture still plagues football.

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Recently, the unjustified death of George Floyd has shaken the world and the incident has triggered the football fraternity as well.

It is believed that the 46-year-old African-American had suffered a cardiac arrest while being restrained by the Minneapolis police.

A video clearly shows how a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, continued to kneel on the victim’s neck, ultimately choking him. This has led to widespread protests in the United States.  

Shortly after scoring a goal against SC Paderborn 07 on Sunday, Dortmund star Jadon Sancho took off his jersey to reveal the words – “Justice for George Floyd” on it.

Later in the same match, Moroccan right-back Achraf Hakimi also showed the same gesture after scoring in the 85th minute. Several other footballers and football clubs have also shown solidarity with George Floyd protesters.

 Keeping such acts in mind, here are five instances when footballers took a stand against racism.   

#1 Dani Alves silencing Villarreal fans

In 2014, in an away match against Villarreal, then-Barcelona right-back Dani Alves was subjected to a harsh act of racism.

A banana was thrown at him by a home fan and it landed at his feet while the Brazilian was preparing to take a late corner at El Madrigal. Alves responded by picking up the banana, peeling, and taking a bite before proceeding to take the corner kick.

In the post-match interview, Alves proposed that humour is the best way to tackle racism in sports and that ignorance is the key to success in the present scenario.

In a conference in the same year, Brazil legend Pele acknowledged this gesture and urged the Brazilian league players to fight racism the “Dani Alves way”.

#2 Mario Balotelli slamming Lazio fans

During a home match against Lazio in January this year, the Brescia striker was the target of racist chants by the away fans.

The Serie A match was halted for a few minutes after the 30th-minute mark, and an announcement was made through the stadium’s tannoy system.

 Balotelli, who scored for Brescia in their 2-1 loss, blasted the Lazio fans through an Instagram post after the game.

He posted the video of his goal and wrote – “Lazio fans that were today at the stadium SHAME ON YOU!”.

In November last year, Balotelli threatened to walk off the pitch after monkey chants were aimed at him from Hellas Verona fans.

 #3 Georginio Wijnaldum and Frenkie de Jong’s “arm” celebration

During the Netherlands’ thumping 5-0 victory over Estonia in November last year, Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum scored his first-ever international hat-trick. But his celebration stood out more than his performance that day.

At the sixth minute of the game, Wijnaldum celebrated his first goal with a powerful anti-racist message.

After heading home from the edge of the six-yard box, the 29-year-old ran towards the cameras near the touchline and held his hand out next to his teammate Frenkie de Jong’s, clearly indicating the difference in colour.

This gesture was triggered in response to the reported racial abuse of Excelsior Rotterdam’s Ahmad Mendes, who said he was called a “negro and a cotton-picker” by Den Bosch fans.

 #4 Paul Pogba’s anti-racism gesture

Paul Pogba wore black and white wrist bands during warm-up, ahead of Manchester United’s 4-1 win over Newcastle United on Boxing Day last year.

 “No to racism” and “We are one” were the words branded on the bands as the United midfielder urged his team-mates to join him in wearing those before the match, with the Frenchman giving his own band to a young fan.

Pogba’s gesture was the result of him facing racial abuse on social media at the start of the season. According to reports, the 26-year-old felt obligated to carry out the initiative on his own rather than approaching UEFA or FIFA.

 #5 Romelu Lukaku’s fight against racism

In only his second game for Inter Milan, Romelu Lukaku was racially abused, with the Belgian striker being the target of monkey chants from the spectators during the Nerazzurri’s 2-1 away win over Cagliari in September last year.

After the game, Lukaku urged everyone to stand against racism in football through his Instagram post. The 26-year-old also insisted that such incidents make him take out his anger on the field.

In December last year, Lukaku and Roma defender Chris Smalling’s picture was on the front page of an Italian newspaper- Corriere dello Sport, along with the headline-“Black Friday”. This sparked widespread criticism for being racist and Lukkaku addressed the issue through another Instagram post.
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