I moved to Cape Town, South Africa in September 2008 and spent a year involved in the community there. It was 14 years after apartheid had ended. The long painful history was still very visible and fresh in the minds of so many. The issue of race as part of your identity was very openly discussed and distinctly recognized. Watching Jozy Altidore this week speak out against racism reminded me of my time in Cape Town. I saw firsthand the impact the horrible system of apartheid had and wondered what the views back in the Netherlands might have been and might still be.
Last week Altidore shared some of his horrific experiences in a candid B/R Report video that he posted on social media. I cut a segment of that below [full video here]:
I started to hear the chants “Boo, Boo, Boo” and then the second time and then I really knew…It’s not boo, it’s “Ooo, ooo, ooo”, it’s a monkey chant. It was a difficult moment.
Jozy’s experience is not unique to Holland or even to Europe. Racism is a global issue not just in sports, but football seems to catch the attention of the world. Sports fans I know often ask me why is race so prevalent in soccer. Jozy specifically mentions FIFA’s responsibility in this. I wonder if the Netherlands and Eredivisie might be a place to start for FIFA to start their work.
There was frustration recently in Holland for the process of selecting Frank de Boer as national coach of the Dutch team. No minority candidates were interviewed for the position.
Racism has been well documented this year in local clubs too with the tears of Ahmad Mendes Moreira at FC Den Bosch or the American Confederation Flag hanging at PSV Stadium.
With stories of the national team, the clubs and players more investigation is needed. This is unacceptable and a great opportunity for FIFA, Eredivisie and all of the world’s clubs and leagues need to take a hard look inside. Reggie Cannon’s experience domestically both with MLS fans and the club shows it is happening in our backyard too.
However, it appears to be Eredivisie as a long standing, epidemic problem that FIFA could start with. They are a club at the core of development for some of the best players in the world. I can’t help but wonder if Dest being called a troublemaker and noise about him not being a player who could be coached is a cover for nationalism as Sergiño selected to play for USMNT. He very quickly moved to exit Holland once his announcement had been made.
It gives me pause as I look at the so many Americans in Eredivisie and hold concern for all, but more so the people of color. Could they too be experiencing the same thing that Jozy, Ahmad and so many others are along with the challenges of World Football? Are they getting a fair shake if they don’t fit the profile? Young men perhaps being passed up for not looking the part or being benched for national players. Experiencing racism inside and outside the club, but afraid to speak out because they’re trying to make their way as Jozy was?
FIFA the challenge has been laid by Jozy Altidore and the fans, the media, the players are all behind him and the message. It being prevalent everywhere does not give you the freedom to do nothing. Start somewhere. Do something. Your move.