Friday, May 27

I may not be the target of racist abuse, but the football fight is mine too | European club football

TThis summer, I had the honor of leading my national team to glory at the European Championship. It feels like a long journey for him Azzurri, and on the road to victory we were often put to the test. But we learned from that adversity and from our mistakes, and those challenges make success even sweeter.

Today, Italian football faces another challenge: the terrible racism suffered by black players and, in general, players of different ethnic origins in this league. This season we have already seen so many incidents. As an Italian, I am ashamed that my colleagues and teammates have to experience this. I have no idea how they do it. Of course, as a footballer I have had quite a few boos from the stands. Sometimes it was difficult to stay focused, to control my emotions. But I have never experienced abuse because of something that is part of me, like my skin color, gender, or sexuality. I can never understand how that feels, but I know it is unacceptable. And this has to end.

Take the October 3 match between Napoli and Fiorentina. During a post-match interview, Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly was called by a racist name by a Fiorentina fan after a game in which his teammates André-Frank Zambo Anguissa and Victor Osimhen were racially abused. The fan who abused Koulibaly was expelled for five years, and the police and the club are actively searching for other perpetrators. But is this enough?

After that game I was asked my opinion and I honestly said that I don’t know exactly what to do, but I know that we need to do more. I also said that it is everyone’s responsibility to act, and I recognize that that includes me.

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Since that interview I have been reflecting on what I can do as someone who has not experienced discrimination but has a voice, a platform and a responsibility. I realize this is an ongoing process for me, but this is my starting point: five things I can do to join the fight against discrimination:

Understand that this fight is my fight

I may not be subjected to discriminatory abuses, but as a Juventus captain, as a captain of my team and as a human being, this fight against discrimination is also my fight and my responsibility.

Educate me

I don’t have all the answers, but I can listen and learn. I recognize that I need to do that work myself rather than putting the responsibility on people facing discrimination to educate me.

Amplify the voice of others

I will not remain silent, but I will not speak on behalf of those who live with discrimination every day. Instead, I’ll amplify the voices of others, and start here by highlighting what Koulibaly and Osimhen said after Napoli’s game against Fiorentina: Koulibaly posted on Instagram that fans who racially abuse players “should be identified and kept out of stadiums – forever. “Victor took to Twitter after the game to urge people to speak out about racism. I ask that you listen to these players and all those who have the courage to speak up about their experiences.

Do my best, even if it feels awkward

As a player, I have learned that when faced with big challenges, we can make mistakes along the way. But that doesn’t mean we give up or don’t try. The most important thing is that when we make mistakes, we take responsibility to improve. Being a good ally is like being a good teammate: I may not always get it right, and sometimes I will feel uncomfortable when asked to do something different. But I will admit my mistakes, I will learn and I will do better.

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Understand that this conversation is not about me.

I feel pain when I see my teammates and players abused. And I feel ashamed as an Italian. I am ashamed that the world is looking and seeing the worst of my country when there is so much to love. But I also recognize that I have to manage my feelings myself, because I am not the victim and this conversation is not about me.

This is what we can do as players. Of course, our federations, leagues and clubs must also come together, in consultation with players and players’ unions, and develop a more effective strategy. We need officials and governing bodies to take the issue seriously and react quickly and appropriately to any incident on the field, in the locker room or online. And I will continue to raise my voice to encourage others to act.

But we everybody share responsibility for solving problems posed by racism and discrimination. Too often I have seen the expectation of addressing racism fall on the shoulders of those most affected. Or seen ignored sexism and homophobia as an issue that only women and people from the LGBT community can address. This cannot be correct.

That is why those of us who do not directly experience discrimination must rise up and be better allies. That is why I promise my voice and my support to all players who suffer discrimination. I pledge to take responsibility to act against discrimination, to understand how we can better eradicate it, and to report it. If you are lucky enough not to have been discriminated against, I ask that you do the same.

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This is an excerpt from a new Fifpro report, ‘What level playing field? Players’ perspectives on discrimination in football ”

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