The U.S. national team striker scored in AZ Alkmaar’s 5-0 victory at second-division Den Bosch in a Dutch Cup quarterfinal Tuesday but did his finest work in a postgame TV interview.
“I feel like I have an obligation to my club, to my family, to not react to things like this and show the club is better than that and I was raised better than that to respond to such ridiculous behavior,” said Altidore, 23, who is black and of Haitian descent. “You would hope that humanity can grow from these type of times, but it’s still alive — racism.”
Altidore’s classy comments came after Den Bosch supporters directed “jungle noises” at him, according to AZ’s Twitter account. The referee reportedly wanted to stop the match but Altidore and his teammates persuaded him to let play continue.
“It’s a bit disappointing these things still happen in this time we are in. What are you doing to do?” he said. “You just hope these people can find a way to improve themselves. You can only pray for them.”
AZ executive Earnie Stewart, a former U.S. national team player and Dutch American, told a sideline TV reporter: “You hear that and wonder what on Earth is going on.”
The Associated Press reported that Den Bosch director Peter Bijvelds blamed “malicious supporters making a scandalous mess. … We have a structural problem with a group of people who ruin things. We have to crack down on it.”
Altidore is tied for second in the Dutch league (Eredivisie) with 15 goals and has scored five times in cup play for a career-high 20. He has a regular season match Saturday at home against Groningen before a likely call-up to the U.S. squad for next Wednesday’s 2014 World Cup qualifier at Honduras.
Teammate Viktor Elm said: “The audience that misbehaved towards Altidore should be ashamed.”
This evening, Altidore issued a statement through his U.S.-based publicist:
“Obviously, what happened today outside the field of play was very unfortunate. It was disappointing for my team, our fans who traveled to the match to support us and for the Den Bosch supporters embarrassed by the select, ignorant few in attendance. But unfortunately, this is still the way things are. Racism remains prevalent in the world. The only thing you can pray for is a positive outcome from situations like these. You hope parents and coaches of young, impressionable athletes — not just soccer players — are told that what happened today isn’t right. It is never acceptable.”
Black players have endured racial taunts in Europe and elsewhere for years.
Early this month, AC Milan midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng retaliated to abuse from a crowd in Italy by kicking the ball into the stands, removing his shirt and leading his teammates off the field.
Four years ago while playing for Standard Liege in Belgium, American defender Oguchi Onyewu (Sherwood High School) sued an opposing player for calling him names. (The issue was resolved out of court.) In a 2006 profile in The Post, Onyewu recalled similar incidents:
“There are some racist teams and racist players in Belgium,” he said. “One game, the fans were making monkey noises at some of our players. They just don’t like foreigners. It’s just ignorance. Some [opposing players] will say stupid stuff: ‘You black this, black that.’ And you think to yourself, ‘Now what did you achieve by saying that?’ It makes you feel like cutting the guy’s head off, but you just try to control your emotions.”
Has he ever retaliated?
“Oh, yeah,” he said, with a sly grin, “but discreetly.”