Feature: Racism in Football- Infamous Racial Incidents and Acts

Racism is a major issue in our world nowadays, even the beautiful game is filled with it.

Players, officials and fans are all targeted, some may be targeted because of them being on the opposing team and some individuals are even targeted by their own fans.

Below are some football related racist incidents and acts that happened all around Europe.



In January 2005, Paris Saint-Germain’s players wore all-white jerseys and the opposing RC Lens players wore all-black during a French league match as part of an anti-racism campaign.

The move backfired as racist elements among PSG’s crowd in the Kop of Boulogne sang “Come on the whites”, followed by monkey chants from the crowd when Lens players touched the ball.

On 18 April 2007, Lyon player Milan Baroš was accused of racially abusing Rennes’ Stéphane M’Bia by implying that M’Bia smelt. On 4 May 2022 Baroš was found guilty of the gesture, but found not guilty of racism, and was banned for three league matches.

On 17 February 2008, Valenciennes’s Abdeslam Ouaddou was racially abused by a Metz fan; Metz and the French league announced that they would be suing the fan in question. The referee did not see the incident, and so booked Ouaddou for confronting the fan.

Ouaddou confronting the fan who racially abused him.



On 25 March 2006, in a match between FC Sachsen Leipzig and Hallescher FC, Leipzig’s Nigerian midfielder Adebowale Ogungbure was spat at and called an ‘ape’ by opposition fans, who later aimed monkey noises at him. In a moment of anger he placed two fingers above his mouth and saluted at the crowd — a reference to Adolf Hitler.

Ogungbure was arrested by German police, as it is illegal to make Nazi gestures but criminal proceedings were dropped the following day.

On 4 February 2022 a racist German football fan was captured by fellow fans during a match between Energie Cottbus and VfL Bochum, and faces a lifetime ban.

In March 2012, Kevin Großkreutz was accused of racially abusing Gerald Asamoah in the aftermath of Borussia Dortmund’s DFB-Pokal semi-final victory over Greuther Furth.



Dark-skinned footballers playing in the Serie A top flight in 1992 & 1993 were also racially abused.

Two Dutch players, Ruud Gullit and Aron Winter, have spoken out against such racist taunts. Their complaints spurred a day of action on 13 December 1992, with the slogan “No racism!”



On 24 March 2007, in a match between France and Lithuania, a banner was unfurled by Lithuanian supporters that depicted a map of Africa, painted with the French flag colors, with a slogan of “Welcome to Europe”.



In a match between Rangers and FK Zeta, Rangers players DaMarcus Beasley and Jean-Claude Darcheville were subjected to racist abuse by FK Zeta players and Zeta were later fined £9,000.



In a 1991 interview, SC Heerenveen manager Fritz Korbach racially abused two dark-skinned players, calling Bryan Roy “a short n*****” and Romário “that coffee bean of PSV”.

During Euro 96, the Afro-Surinamese Dutch player Edgar Davids was sent home after publicly alleging discrimination within the team’s organization.



In one case, young player Caleb Francis was abused in his debut match for Kongsvinger IL. The abuse nearly ended his career, but he returned to Kongsvinger’s senior team after two years, and enjoyed a long career.

Vålerenga Fotball club famously played with their slogan “Vålerenga against Racism” instead of a shirt sponsor in the 1997 season. An official campaign, initiated by the footballers’ trade union, is called “Give Racism the Red Card”.



Saturn Moscow’s Brazilian player Antonio Geder was received with monkey chants at Petrovsky Stadium in a match against Zenit.

In March 2008, dark-skinned players of French side Marseille - including André Ayew, Ronald Zubar and Charles Kaboré - were targeted by fans of Zenit Saint Petersburg; Zenit fans were later warned by police in Manchester not to repeat their behaviour ahead of the 2008 UEFA Cup Final.

Later Zenit’s coach Dick Advocaat revealed the club’s supporters were racist. When they attempted to sign Mathieu Valbuena, a Frenchman, many fans asked “Is he a n****?”

On 20 August 2010, Peter Odemwingie, a Soviet-born Nigerian international, joined Premier League team West Bromwich Albion. Shortly after signing for West Brom, Lokomotiv Moscow fans celebrated the sale of Odemwingie through the use of racist banners targeted at the player.

In February 2011, Roberto Carlos signed a contract with Russian Premier League club Anzhi Makhachkala. The following month during a game away against Zenit, a banana was held near Carlos by one of the fans as the footballer was taking part in a flag-raising ceremony.

In June, in a match away at Krylia Sovetov Samara, Roberto Carlos received a pass from the goalkeeper and was about to pass it when a banana was thrown on to the pitch, landing nearby. The 38-year-old Brazilian picked it up and threw it by the sidelines, walking off the field before the final whistle and raising two fingers at the stands, indicating this was the second such incident since he joined Anzhi.



In October 2006, 37 Borac Cacak fans were arrested and eight faced criminal charges after racially abusing the club’s Zimbabwean player Mike Temwanjera during a first division match.

Borac Cacak was at the centre of more controversy in March 2008 when a Ghanaian player, Solomon Opoku, was attacked by fans; six fans were arrested, with four being charged.

During a match against England U-21, an unnamed Serbian player was accused of racially abusing the English defender Justin Hoyte, while the Serbian fans were alleged to have racially abused England’s Nigerian-born full-back Nedum Onuoha.

Following racist abuse from Montenegrin side FK Zeta fans, DaMarcus Beasley recalled previous instances of racism while playing away in Serbia, from fans of Red Star Belgrade.

However, Red Star were defended by some of its players, such as Segundo Castillo and Franklin Salas, with Castillo saying that “Red Star fans are not racist”.



Aston Villa’s Dalian Atkinson returned from Spain after one season with Real Sociedad, unhappy with the reception he received, and identifying racial abuse as a major factor in his rapid departure.

During a training session in 2004, a Spanish TV crew filmed Spanish national team head coach Luis Aragonés trying to motivate José Antonio Reyes by making offensive and racist references to Reyes’ then teammate at Arsenal, Thierry Henry. The incident caused uproar in the British media with calls for Aragonés to be sacked.

However these opinions were not widely supported in Spain, with the national football federation declining to take any action.

Spain played England in a friendly match at the Bernabéu soon after, on 17 November 2004, the atmosphere was hostile. When England sang their national anthem before kickoff, Spanish fans racially chanted against English players. And whenever Shaun Wright-Phillips and Ashley Cole touched the ball, a significant proportion of the Spanish crowd began to make monkey chants.

The British press blamed Aragonés’ remarks for the incident. After an investigation into the events during the match, UEFA fined the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) €67,000.

In February 2005, Samuel Eto’o suffered from racially-driven verbal abuse by some Real Zaragoza fans. The fans began making monkey-like chants whenever Eto’o had possession of the ball and peanuts were thrown onto the pitch. Eto’o threatened to leave the pitch in the middle of the game, but was prevented by the intervention of his team-mates and the referee, who rushed to the pitch to calm him down.

His teammate Ronaldinho, who has suffered similar abuses but less intensely, said he was fed up with the sounds and that if Eto’o had left the pitch, he would have done the same.

As Barcelona won 4-1, Eto’o danced like a monkey, saying rival fans were treating him as a monkey. Referee Fernando Carmona Mendez did not mention the incidents in his match report, commenting only that the behaviour of the crowd was normal. Eto’o declared in the aftermath that the punishment was insufficient and that La Romareda, Real Zaragoza’s stadium, should have been closed for at least one year.

However, Eto’o’s coach, Frank Rijkaard, told him to concentrate on football and to stop talking about the incident. Eto’o has stated that he does not take his children to football matches.

Many other African players have also been victims of racial abuse, such as Cameroon’s Idriss Carlos Kameni, who was abused while playing for Espanyol against Atlético Madrid, who were fined €6,000.



The dark-skinned Everton F.C. center-forward, Dixie Dean, recalled how racist comments were aimed at him as he left the pitch at half time during a match in London in the 1930s.

Dean punched the offender himself before disappearing into the players’ tunnel. The authorities took no action against Dean, and a nearby police officer was alleged to have informed the victim that he had “deserved” his punishment.

In the 1970s, future England full-back Viv Anderson endured racist abuse as an 18 year old playing for Nottingham Forest against Newcastle, and was pelted with apples and pears from Carlisle supporters while warming up for Nottingham Forest as a substitute. When he retreated back to the bench to inform manager Brian Clough of the abuse he was told to go back out and fetch him ‘two pears and a banana’.

In April 2004, Ron Atkinson resigned from ITV after he was caught making a racist remark live on air about the dark-skinned Chelsea player Marcel Desailly. Atkinson thought the microphone was switched off, although transmission in the UK had finished, his comment was broadcast to several countries in the Middle East. He also left his job as a columnist for The Guardian as a result of the comment.

On 13 January 2007, the FA charged Newcastle player Emre Belözoğlu with using racially insulting words, referring to an incident during the 3-0 defeat by Everton at Goodison Park on 30 December 2006. On 16 February 2007, Emre was accused of more racist behaviour, this time against Bolton’s El Hadji Diouf. However, on 1 March 2007, it was revealed that Diouf would not be pursuing his claim.

In November 2008, Middlesbrough’s Egyptian forward Mido was subjected to Islamophobic chanting from a small number of Newcastle United fans.

Mido…. subjected to Islamophobic chanting by a section of Newcastle supporters.

During a League Cup match between Blackpool and Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium on 22 September 2009, Blackpool player Jason Euell, who at the time was sitting on the substitutes bench was racially abused by a Stoke fan, who was ejected from the stadium and subsequently arrested by Staffordshire Police.

In the wake of the incident, Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp called for fans who racially abuse players to be imprisoned.

On 15 October 2011, Luis Suárez was accused of racially abusing Patrice Evra, and the English Football Association opened up an investigation into the incident. On 20 December, the FA fined Suárez £40,000 and banned him for eight matches.

In March 2012, a 29 year old Arsenal fan was arrested after being caught racially abusing Newcastle United player Cheik Tiote by SkySports cameras.

The most talked about incident in the 2011/2012 season was when England captain John Terry was caught on tape allegedly racially abusing Anton Ferdinand. Few days ago Queens Park Rangers faced Chelsea, Ferdinand refused to shake hands with Terry before the start of the match.



During a 2007 Scottish Cup tie, St. Johnstone player Jason Scotland was the target of racist taunts by a handful of Motherwell fans. The racist fans were reported to police and match stewards by the fans around them. Motherwell chairman later apologized on behalf of the club.

In October 2009, Rangers player Maurice Edu said he was racially abused by some Rangers fans while leaving Ibrox after a UEFA Champions League defeat by Unirea Urziceni.

In February 2011, in an Old Firm match at Celtic Park a Celtic supporter was caught mocking dark-skinned Rangers player El Hadji Diouf with monkey noises and gestures as he was about to take a corner kick.




Written by Fouad Al Bastaki

Follow him on Twitter @FouadAlBastaki

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