The beautiful game has an ugly problem.

Racism is a societal issue transcending soccer, but when incidents occur in the planet’s most popular sport, the scourge is magnified.

Recent episodes turned the spotlight back on the matter and prompted Danny Rose, a left back for the English national team and Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur, to say, “I’ve got five or six more years left in football, and I just can’t wait to see the back of it.”

Rose and England teammate Callum Hudson-Odoi, who are black, said Montenegro fans directed monkey chants at them during a Euro 2020 qualifier two weeks ago.

UEFA, European soccer’s governing body, is investigating the matter, and if Montenegro is found guilty next month, the national team probably would have to play a future match in a fan-free stadium, plus other sanctions.

AD
AD

To Rose, however, penalties for such abuse are inadequate: “It’s sad, but when countries only get fined what I probably spend on a night out in London, then what do you expect?”

Rose spoke out this past week. He did not comment immediately after the match because, he said, he did not want to distract from the 5-1 victory. He also said a “very small minority of the fans” were involved.

England teammate Raheem Sterling, who is black, did not mince words in the immediate aftermath.

“We can only bring awareness and light to the situation,” he said. It’s now time for the people in charge to put a real stamp on it. You’ve got to punish people a bit harder. You’ve got to do something that makes them think twice.”

AD

In England this weekend, a season ticket holder for London club Brentford was arrested for allegedly directing racial abuse at Duane Holmes, a U.S.-born British midfielder for second-flight Derby County. Holmes had returned to the bench following a second-half substitution when the incident occurred.

AD

“I didn’t see it. I was facing play, and a fan came up to him at the side of the dugout and abused him,” Derby Manager Frank Lampard said. “Because it’s such an important issue, I don’t want to go beyond what I know, but it was very clearly reported by the players and the people around."

Brentford reacted swiftly, saying, “The most severe sanctions will be imposed on any individual convicted of discrimination, and we will await the result of the police investigation before commenting further."

AD

Northampton Town, a fourth-division club, reported black players were racially taunted during a pregame walk outside the team hotel in Nottingham.

Northampton’s Timi Max Elsnik, who is white, wrote on Twitter that a “young man outside the hotel started racially abusing some of our lads. The most disgusting thing I’ve seen & heard!”

AD

A midweek match in Italy received the most attention, in large part because the abused player’s teammate worsened matters.

Subjected throughout the match at Cagliari to monkey noises, Juventus teenager Moise Kean, who has West African roots, stared at the crowd while extending his arms after scoring a late clinching goal.

AD

Afterward, teammate Leonardo Bonucci said “the blame is 50-50” because Kean incited the crowd — a comment that drew worldwide backlash.

Bonucci later apologized, saying: “My words have been clearly misunderstood, probably because I was too hasty in the way I expressed my thoughts. Hours and years wouldn’t be enough to talk about this topic. I firmly condemn all forms of racism and discrimination.”

Kick It Out, a British-based campaign that has been attempting to rid racism from soccer since 1993, wrote on its website this past week that governing bodies need to take stronger action. One-game bans on spectators are “a short-term fix that papers over the cracks. The same people, with the same views, will be back for the next game. We have to hit them where it hurts. That means extended stadium bans, points deductions and, ultimately, expulsions” from competitions.

AD
AD

“Football is at risk of losing future generations of players at all levels of the game unless those with the power to get a grip on this situation, namely the governing bodies, do so.”

In an interview with ITV News, Manchester United Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did not place all the blame on the sport.

“It’s society as well," he said. "You can’t stop everyone. There are idiots anywhere. I don’t think football can take responsibility for some individual’s actions, but when it happens, we need to get rid of them.”

AD
AD