secondPoor people in Brazil are beaten to death in supermarkets on Black Awareness Day, routinely harassed and brutalized by the police, cropped from marketing photos for private schools so only their white pairs are shown. The soccer field is often one of the few places where black Brazilians are not subjected to prejudice and racism, a setting that provides a form of escapism from the harsh realities of everyday life. However, two incidents over Christmas showed that the game is far from immune to racism, be it at the grassroots or professional level.
First a clip of an 11 year old boy Luiz Eduardo went viral. At the conclusion of a match in Caldas Novas, in the rural state of Goiás, the young man was shocked and crying after the rival’s coach repeatedly told his players to “close the game. black”, Which is a very offensive racial slur in Portuguese. Corinthians they wore the name of Luiz Eduardo on their shirts in solidarity in his match against Goiás a few days later and received support videos from players such as Gabriel Jesus and Neymar. Santos, the club that nurtured Neymar, they have even offered proof.
In a land that is home to one of the most racially unequal societies in the world, where public education is poor, access to private education is expensive and the minimum wage is miserable, soccer stereotypically offers one of the few avenues to a life better for young black people and their families, making professional employment in the industry the dream of millions. However, as demonstrated during a fierce confrontation between Flamengo and Bahia in December, escaping poverty does not mean that players are free from discrimination.
During a fight in a highly contested league game, Flamengo midfielder Gerson says he was told to “shut your mouth, black”From the Bahian player Juan Pablo Ramírez. Speaking after the game, Gerson said: “I have played many games as a professional and I have never said anything because I have never been prejudiced. But after conceding one of the goals, Ramírez started arguing with Bruno Henrique and I went to talk to him and he said: ‘Shut your mouth, black.’ He has to learn to respect people. “
Several high-profile players commented on the incident, with Everton forward Richarlison, who played alongside Gerson for various Brazilian youth teams, telling his former teammate on Twitter: “They will not shut us up. We will scream louder and louder! We are together brother! Burn the racists! “
After the game, Bahía coach Mano Menezes argued with Gerson on the side of the field and accused him of “cunning“, a form of dishonest deception that could be translated as shit. Menezes, who had a stint as Brazil’s coach a decade ago in which he led his country to the Olympic final in London 2012, was effectively suggesting that Gerson had only accused Ramírez of racism to gain an advantage in a tight game.
The furor has been enormously embarrassing for Bahia, which has proudly earned a reputation as one of the most progressive clubs in Brazil on issues such as racism and homophobia. Amid the aftermath after the final whistle, the club announced that they had suspended Ramírez and dismissed Menezes. The club said they had fired their coach because of the team’s poor form – their 4-3 loss to Flamengo left them 16th in the Brasileirão table – but their comments appear to have played a role.
“His attitude certainly weighed heavily in Bahia making the decision to fire him the same day,” says Brazilian soccer journalist Breiller Pires. However, Pires points out that not all clubs would have acted so quickly or decisively when it came to punishing their staff. “If it were another club, we probably would have seen a different behavior. Bahia has been a pioneer in the creation of a nucleus of affirmative actions and in carrying out important social actions, which has contributed to the club adopting an attitude of zero tolerance towards the case in the removal of the player and avoiding blaming the victim. ”.
Despite this, they still need to improve on their progressive fronts. Replacing Roger Machado, a black and socially committed coach, with Mano was a mistake. The club put social responsibility on the back burner and looked only at the sporting side of things. And, for the dirtying of their image due to this case, they have paid dearly. Bahía must make its players and employees more aware of its position, showing them the importance of demonstrating anti-racist attitudes and that racism will never be tolerated by the club and its fans.
Gerson has made his complaints to the police officer and Ramírez has subsequently offered an apology in a video posted by the club on its social media channels. Although he maintains that he did not tell Gerson to shut his mouth, he did not say anything racist and could have been misinterpreted.
Bahia hired a language specialist, who concluded that there had been no wrongdoing on the part of his player. Since then he has been reinstated in the team. The club says it will take steps to prevent further incidents, including the drafting of “anti-racist, xenophobic and homophobic” clauses in their players’ contracts and subjecting players to immersion courses in structural racism in the preseason. They also proposed an anti-discrimination protocol for matches and supported the idea of a national day against racism in soccer in Brazil.
Dani Alves, who started his career at Bahia, played for Menezes in the Brazil national team and is now back in Brasileiro at São Paulo FC, has been critical of the punishments Menezes and Ramírez receive. “I find it a shame that we have evolved in so many banal things, but in the things that we really should have evolved, we have become more stupid,” he wrote on Instagram. “As long as there is no severe punishment, it will never end.”
Pires agrees and says: “The dismissal is not enough for what Mano did. The technician’s conduct was reprehensible. A football professional cannot behave like him when faced with a complaint of racism, blaming and discrediting the victim. It was the most embarrassing episode of his career. “
Pires says that the cases of Luiz Eduardo and Gerson “are reflections of the structural racism of society, which still marginalizes blacks, as happened with João Alberto at the Carrefour supermarket on Black Awareness Day. In football, there is an even greater tolerance for racism. Racist crimes are considered part of the “sports culture”, something evident when Mano Menezes treats an accusation of racism as a soccer provocation. The absence of blacks in leadership positions, such as coaches, directors and club presidents, is normalized, although football is full of black idols and great athletes. The lack of representation in the most powerful roles in sport is one of the reasons why racist crimes generally go unpunished and why the victims are blamed ”.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism