Racism in association football

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"Racism in football" redirects here. For racism in other sports called football, see Racism in sport.

Racism in association football is the abuse of players, officials, and fans because of their skin color, nationality, or ethnicity. Some may also be targeted because of their association with an opposing team. However, there have been instances of individuals being targeted by their own fans.[1][2][3]

Racism in association football is centered primarily in the European Union and Russia, although racist incidents have been reported abroad. In response to racist incidents at association football matches, in May 2013, FIFA, the international governing body of association football, announced new measures to deal with racism in the sport.[4]



Hanif Adams, the owner of Lusaka Dynamos, was subject to racist remarks due to his Indian heritage while running for president of the Football Association of Zambia.[5]


Hong Kong[edit]

There were reports of targeted racial attacks against the Philippine national team while they competed at Mongkok Stadium in a friendly against Hong Kong. The event was held on 4 June 2013. Hong Kong fans reportedly called their counterparts "slaves", threw bottles at them and booed at the Philippine national anthem. Hong Kong lost the friendly match to the Philippines, 1–0. At the end of the game, Hong Kong fans reportedly threw debris at the Philippine team and gallery, occupied mostly by wives and children of the players.[6]

Benny Chan, spokesman of the Hong Kong Football Association, announced that the football body will release an official report to FIFA and the public after its investigation is completed. Philippine football officials are likewise waiting for the report before filing a complaint to FIFA.[7]


In March 2014, J1 League club Urawa Red Diamonds had to play to an empty stadium; their fans had been banned following racist banners displayed in previous matches.[8][9]


The Philippine Football Federation filed a complaint with GMA Network over a comment made by news anchor Arnold Clavio over controversial remarks directed at the Philippines national football team. A popular radio and television newscaster and program host of morning news show Unang Hirit, Clavio was quoted as saying that foreign-born players are not Filipinos (emphasizing the fact that they were not born in the Philippines). Clavio later retracted this statement, insisting that he had not intended to offend anyone.[10]

Another racial incident occurred during a friendly match between the Philippines and Indonesia on 5 June 2012. A number of Indonesian fans were observed to be chanting "Hindi kayo Pilipino!" ("You are not Filipinos!") at Filipino players of non-Philippine ancestry.[11]



Oguchi Onyewu, an American of Nigerian descent, has been punched and shouted at by racist fans while playing for Standard Liège.[12] He has also had incidents with other players, such as Jelle Van Damme, who, according to Onyewu, repeatedly called him a "dirty ape"[13] during the 2008–09 Championship playoff, even after Onyewu relayed the information to the referees.[14] Van Damme denied the accusations following the match, and claimed that Onyewu had called him a "dirty Flemish".[13] Approximately two weeks later, on 2 June 2009, it was announced by Onyewu's lawyer that he was suing Van Damme in an effort to end on-field racism in European football.[15]

Zola Matumona left FC Brussels after he accused club chairman Johan Vermeersch of making racist remarks towards him during a crisis meeting at the struggling club. He is reported to have told Matumona to "think about other things than trees and bananas".[16]


Henri Belle moved to Croatia at the beginning of 2011, signing with Istra 1961. He drew attention to himself both by good games and through receiving racist taunts from some supporters.[17]


In January 2005, as part of an anti-racism initiative in Ligue 1, Paris Saint-Germain's players wore all-white jerseys and the opposing Lens players wore all-black during a French league match. The move backfired after racist elements among PSG's crowd in the Kop of Boulogne sung "Come on the whites". The racist overtone was exacerbated by monkey chants from the Boulogne crowd whenever a Lens player touched the ball.[18]

On 18 April 2007, Lyon player Milan Baroš was accused of racially abusing Rennes' Stéphane Mbia by implying that Mbia smelt.[19] On 4 May 2007, Baroš was found guilty of the gesture, but found not guilty of racism, and was banned for three league matches.[20]

On 17 September 2007, Libourne's Burkinabe player Boubacar Kébé was abused by fans of Bastia; he was red-carded for retaliating.[21] In February 2008, Bastia was again at the centre of controversy when their fans unfurled a racist banner, again aimed at Kébé, which delayed the kick-off of the match by three minutes.[22]

On 17 February 2008, Abdeslam Ouaddou of Valenciennes was racially abused by a fan from opponents Metz; Metz and the Ligue de Football Professionnel announced that they would be suing the fan in question. The match referee did not see the incident, and so booked Ouaddou for challenging the fan.[23] Valenciennes Chairman Francis Decourrière later demanded that the match be replayed "in front of children from Valenciennes and Metz".[24] Following this incident, the French Football Federation made steps to introduce harsher punishments.[25]

In March 2008, Bastia's Frédéric Mendy claimed he had been racially abused by Grenoble fans.[26]

In November 2013, former defender and the French national team's most-capped player, Lilian Thuram, has said white players need to show solidarity with players who receive racist abuse, saying, "The action of not saying anything – somehow – it makes you an accomplice." [27]


In 1994, Borussia Dortmund star Júlio César threatened to leave the club after he was refused admission to a local nightclub because of his being black.[2]

FC St. Pauli fans responded decisively to outbreaks of racism in the German game. With the slogan, Gegen rechts ('Against the Right'), a combination of fans and students took to the club's terraces in 1992 to protest against politically motivated racism.

In December 1992, all the teams in the German League followed the St. Pauli lead and, over one weekend, all players played in shirts displaying the slogan "Mein Freund ist Ausländer" ("My friend is a Foreigner"). The German Sports Youth's 1995 "No Chance for Hatred" campaign has promoted activities against racism and xenophobia on a national scale, encouraging local clubs to participate. This campaign has not spurred German football authorities into further action.

In 1996, Merkel 1996 reports that they vehemently refuse to acknowledge that racism is a major problem, and dismiss racist abuse as isolated incidents which are unrelated to the sport. Most of their measures are concerned with law and order — reducing violence at matches — but anti-racist action is very sparse.

Racism in German football is much more subtle than in other parts of Europe; monkey chanting have been replaced with codes, such as the number 88, which stands for "HH" or "Heil Hitler" ("H" is the eighth letter of the alphabet in both German and English). Some teams, for example Hannover 96, have banned such symbols from their stadiums.[28]

On 25 March 2006, in a match between Sachsen Leipzig and Hallescher FC, Leipzig's Nigerian midfielder Adebowale Ogungbure was spat at and called a "nigger" and "ape" by opposition fans, who later aimed monkey noises at him. In retaliation he placed two fingers above his mouth in reference to Hitler's mustache and performed a Nazi salute.[29] Ogungbure was arrested by German police, as it is illegal to make Nazi gestures for political or abusive purposes, but criminal proceedings were dropped 24 hours later.[30]

In April 2006, in a match between St. Pauli and Chemnitzer FC, visiting Chemnitz fans stormed Turkish-owned stores chanting "Sieg Heil" and waving imitation Nazi flags. Some shouted, "We're going to build a subway from St Pauli to Auschwitz."[30]

Ghana-born German international striker Gerald Asamoah has frequently been the target of racist abuse. On 10 September 2006, Hansa Rostock were investigated for racist abuse in a friendly game[31] and were subsequently found guilty; the team was fined $25,000.[32]

On 19 August 2007, it was announced that Borussia Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller would be investigated by the German Football Association (DFB) after apparently calling Asamoah a "black pig".[33]

On 4 February 2007, a racist German football fan was apprehended by fellow fans during a match between Energie Cottbus and VfL Bochum, and faces a lifetime ban.[34] Racist chants in Cottbus are said to be commonplace.[34]

Torsten Ziegner was given a five-match ban in October 2008 for racially abusing Nigerian player Kingsley Onuegbu during a match against Eintracht Braunschweig.[35]

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 SpVgg Greuther Fürth.


Ronny Rosenthal, playing for Israel's Maccabi Haifa in 1989, was subjected to anti-Semitic taunts.[36]

Black footballers playing in the Serie A top flight in 1992–93 were also racially abused. Two black 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 al razzimo!" ("No to racism") being paraded by all players in the two Italian divisions.[36]

Paul Ince also complained about open abuse during his spell with Inter Milan in Italy between 1995 and 1997.[2]

On 27 November 2005, Marco Zoro attempted to stop the Messina–Inter match by leaving the field with the ball after being tormented by racist taunts from some Inter supporters. He was eventually convinced to keep playing by other players, notably by Inter's Adriano. These facts then brought strong and unanimous condemnations by the whole football community within Italy, and a five-minute delay for an anti-racism display for all the matches to be played in the next week in the country. The actions of the Inter supporters were also brought to the attention of the European football governing body UEFA and the EU.[12]

In April 2009, Inter's Mario Balotelli, an Italian footballer of Ghanaian descent, was subjected to racial abuse from Juventus fans.[37] They were handed a one-game home fan ban as a result.[38] At UEFA Euro 2012 playing for Italy, he fell victim to monkey chants during a match against Spain.[39][40] After his move from Milan to Liverpool in August 2014, he was the target of more than 8,000 abusive posts on social media between that time, and by March 2015, more than 4,000 of these posts were racist in nature.[41]

On the 3 January 2013, then-Milan midfielder Kevin Prince-Boateng, as well as the remainder of his Milan teammates, walked off the pitch early in a friendly match against lower league side Pro Patria after enduring racial abuse from fans of the latter.[42]

On 11 May 2014, bananas were thrown at Milan's Kévin Constant and Nigel de Jong, both black, by Atalanta fans during their Milan's 2–1 defeat.[43] Atalanta were later fined €40,000.[44]


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 (blue, white and red), with a slogan of "Welcome to Europe".[45]


In a match between Rangers and Zeta, Rangers players DaMarcus Beasley (an African American) and Jean-Claude Darcheville (a black Frenchman) were subjected to racist abuse by Zeta players[46] and Zeta were later fined £9,000.[47]


In a 1991 interview, Heerenveen manager Fritz Korbach racially abused two black players, calling Bryan Roy "a short fucking negro" and Romário "that coffee bean of PSV").[2][48] During UEFA Euro 1996, the Afro-Surinamese Dutch player Edgar Davids was sent home after publicly alleging discrimination within the team's organization.[2]

In 2004, a Dutch match between ADO Den Haag and PSV was abandoned after 80 minutes due to racist chanting from some members of the crowd.[49]

In November 2011, Guyon Fernandez received a six-game ban for hitting opposition player Rens van Eijden.[50] Fernandez claimed he was reacting to racist abuse from Van Eijden.[51]


In one case, young player Caleb Francis was severely abused in his debut match for Kongsvinger IL. The abuse halted and nearly broke his career, but he returned to Kongsvinger's senior team after two years,[52] and had a long career.

Several other players have experienced racism, often while playing national or club matches abroad. These players include Daniel Braaten[53] and Pa Modou Kah.[54]

Top-tier club Vålerenga Fotball famously played their with the slogan "Vålerenga Against Racism" instead of a shirt sponsor in the 1997 season.[55] An official campaign, initiated by the footballers' trade union, is called "Give Racism the Red Card".


According to The Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism, football stadiums in Poland are a recruiting ground for extremist organisations.[56][57] Until a few years ago, neo-fascist symbols were a common sight there.[56][58]

During the Extraordinary Congress of the International Football Federation (FIFA), held in Buenos Aires from 6–7 July 2001, the problem of racism in Polish football was discussed and Polish national football association was called to join the struggle against racism.[56] The problem of anti-Semitism in Polish football has drawn international criticism. Poland was named as one of the worst offenders, in British Member of Parliament John Mann report, which describes anti-Semitic incidents in 18 countries across Europe. It was noted that Polish fans routinely call each other "Jews" as a term of abuse.[59] In April 2008, ŁKS Łódź player Arkadiusz Mysona wore a shirt which said "Śmierć żydzewskiej kurwie" ("Death to Widzew-Jewish Whore", which is word play used by the LKS Łódź supporters, who call fans of their local rivals "Jews") after a match in the Polish Ekstraklasa.[60] Mysona said afterwards that the shirt was given to him by a fan and he hadn´t checked it.

Supporters of the football club KS Cracovia, from Kraków, often refer to themselves as "Jews" in a positive manner, much in the same way as fans of Ajax in the Netherlands. In a manner similar to Ajax, the self-identification is related to the team's history; quite a few of the founders of both clubs from Łódź were Polish Jews.

The BBC Panorama program toured football matches in Poland before UEFA Euro 2012, jointly held in Poland and Ukraine. The journalists recorded "a chorus of anti-Semitic chanting" and witnessed "black football players enduring monkey chants from the terraces".[61]


In 2015, Portuguese player Renato Sanches suffered monkey chants from Rio Ave supporters while leaving the pitch in a match of Rio Ave against Benfica. Although the player jokingly responded to the chants by clapping and making a monkey pose.[62]


Cameroonian player André Bikey suffered racist abuse while playing for Lokomotiv Moscow.[63]

Brazilian footballer Antonio Geder of Saturn Moscow was received with monkey chants at Petrovsky Stadium in a match against Zenit Saint Petersburg.[64]

In March 2008, black players of French side Marseille, including André Ayew, Ronald Zubar and Charles Kaboré, were targeted by fans of Zenit Saint Petersburg;[65] Zenit fans were later warned by police in Manchester not to repeat their behaviour ahead of the 2008 UEFA Cup Final.[66] Later on, Zenit 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 negro?"[67] Additionally, Serge Branco, who played for Krylia Sovetov Samara, accused Zenit's staff of racism: "Each time I play in St Petersburg I have to listen to racist insults from the stands. Zenit bosses do not do anything about it which makes me think they are racists too."[67]

On 20 August 2010, Peter Odemwingie, a Russian-born Nigerian international, joined English Premier League team West Bromwich Albion. Shortly after signing, photographs showed Lokomotiv Moscow fans celebrating the sale of Odemwingie through the use of racist banners targeted at the player. One banner included the image of a banana and read "Thanks West Brom".[68]

On 12 February 2011, Roberto Carlos signed a contract with Russian Premier League club Anzhi Makhachkala. In March, during a game away at Zenit Saint Petersburg, a banana was held near the player by one of the fans as the footballer was taking part in a flag-raising ceremony.[69] 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 onto 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 March.[70]

In December 2012, Zenit fans published a manifesto demanding that the club exclude all non-white and homosexual players from the club's roster. The demands were refused by the club, which released a statement saying that "the team's policy is aimed at development and integration into the world soccer community, and holds no archaic views". Until the summer of 2012, Zenit was the only team in the Russian top flight never to have signed a minority player.[71]

In October 2013, Manchester City midfielder Yaya Touré received racist abuse from opposition fans whilst playing against CSKA Moscow in Russia. The club's stadium was partially closed as punishment.[72][73][74][75] Touré suggest that black players might boycott the 2018 FIFA World Cup, to be held in Russia, if racism continued in the country.[76]

In September 2014, Dynamo Moscow defender Christopher Samba was racially abused playing in the Moscow derby against Torpedo Moscow. As a result, Torpedo were forced to close part of their stadium,[77] although Samba was also banned for two games for swearing at the racist fans.[78]


In October 2006, 37 Borac Čačak fans were arrested and eight faced criminal charges after racially abusing the club's Zimbabwean player Mike Temwanjera during a first division match.[79] Borac Čačak was at the centre of more controversy in March 2008 when a Ghanaian player, Solomon Opoku, was attacked by fans; six fans were later arrested, with four being later charged.[80]

On 29 November 2006, Hajduk Kula coach Nebojša Vučićević racially insulted Red Star Belgrade's Senegalese defender Ibrahima Gueye.[81] The coach responded to the accusation: "I told my players several times to put pressure on the black guy, I don't see anything wrong with that."[81]

During a match against England's under-21 side, an unnamed Serbian under-21 player was accused of racially abusing the black English defender Justin Hoyte, while the Serbian fans were alleged to have racially abused England's Nigerian-born full-back Nedum Onuoha.[82]

Following racist abuse from Montenegrin club Zeta fans, DaMarcus Beasley, during his stint with Scottish side Rangers, recalled previous instances of racism whilst playing away in Belgrade from fans of Red Star.[83] Red Star, however, has been defended by some of its black players, such as Segundo Castillo and Franklin Salas, with Castillo saying that, "Red Star fans are not racist."[84] Rangers boss Walter Smith stated he had not heard the abuse, having been absorbed in the game.[83]


On 4 April 2007, football supporters from Slovan Bratislava displayed a banner which contained the words "Alles Gute Adi" and a smiley-head face of Adolf Hitler during a match against Senec; racist chants were also heard. Three days later, on 7 April, Slovan Bratislava fans were responsible for directing monkey chants at Artmedia Bratislava's Karim Guédé.[85]


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 from the Spanish club.[2]

Ivorian midfielder Félix Dja Ettien suffered racial abuse when he first signed for Levante; he was ignored by the coach due to his inability to speak Spanish and whenever he fell ill, he was accused of having malaria or AIDS.[86]

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 phrase used was "Demuestra que eres mejor que ese negro de mierda", translated as "Show that you're better than that black shit". The incident caused uproar in the British media, with calls for Aragonés to be sacked. When Spain played England in a friendly match at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium soon after, on 17 November 2004, the atmosphere was hostile. Whenever black England players touched the ball, a significant proportion of the Spanish crowd began to make monkey chants, in particular to Shaun Wright-Phillips and Ashley Cole. Additionally, when England sang their national anthem before kick-off, Spanish fans also racially chanted against English players. Aragonés' remarks were widely blamed by the British press for inciting the incident. After an investigation into the events during the match, UEFA fined the Royal Spanish Football Federation 100,000 CHF (US$87,000) and warned that any future incidents would be punished more severely.[87] The incident even drew reactions from then-Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Tony Blair and Sports Minister Richard Caborn,[88] with the latter making the claim that the behaviour of Spanish fans was 20 or 30 years behind that of their British counterparts.[89] UEFA noted that possible punishments could include suspension from major international tournaments or the closure of Spain home international matches to supporters. On 7 February 2007, Aragonés won an appeal over the offence, with the misdemeanour being downgraded to "conduct which could be considered to be racist".[90]

In February 2005, Samuel Eto'o received racially driven verbal abuse from some Real Zaragoza spectators during a match for Barcelona. The fans began making monkey-like chants whenever Eto'o had possession of the ball and peanuts were hurled onto the pitch. Eto'o threatened to leave the pitch in the middle of the game, but was prevented by the intervention of his teammates and the referee, who rushed to the pitch to calm him down. His black 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.[91] Referee Fernando Carmona Méndez did not mention the incidents in his match report, commenting only that the behaviour of the crowd was "normal".[91] The fans were identified to police by fellow spectators and they were fined and banned from attending sporting events for five months.[92] 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 due the prevalent racism[93] and has also suggested that players walk off if they become victims of racism.[94]

Many other African footballers have also been victims of racial abuse, such as the Cameroonian Carlos Kameni, who was abused while playing for Espanyol against Atlético Madrid, who were fined €6,000.[36]

In January 2009, the Royal Spanish Football Federation fined Real Madrid approximately US$3,900 after a group of fans made fascist gestures and chanted fascist slogans at a match. Match referee Alfonso Pérez Burrull cited "extremist or radical symbolism", and chants making reference to "the gas chamber."[95]

On 27 April 2014, Barcelona player Dani Alves was targeted by Villarreal fans, who threw a banana at him. Alves picked up the banana, peeled it, and took a bite.[96] Teammate Neymar's response, to post a photograph of himself on social media also eating a banana, went viral.[97] Other footballers have also since taken photographs of themselves eating bananas.[98] Cyrille Regis, who had been racially abused while a player in the 1970s and '80s, expressed concern that the viral campaign would detract from the important issues of combating racism in the game.[99] Alves said that whoever threw the banana at him should be publicly shamed,[100] and on 30 April 2014, a man was arrested in connection with the incident.[101] Villarreal were later fined €12,000 for the incident.[102]

In early May 2014, Levante's Papakouli Diop complained of receiving racist abuse from opposition Atlético Madrid fans.[103][104]


In 2009, fans of Swedish football team IFK Göteborg abused supporters of rivals Malmö FF by referring to them as "Rosengårdstattare" ("Rosengård gypsies"), in a racist reference to the large immigrant population of Malmö.[105][106] Also, fans of Helsingborgs IF have been known to yell monkey chants at opposing dark-skinned players.[107]


Fwayo Tembo left Basel after he accused club coach Thorsten Fink of making racist remarks towards him during a training session. Fink is reported to have told a collaborator to "get the monkey down from the tree".[108]

United Kingdom[edit]


The Commission for Racial Equality (CRE), the Football Supporters Association (FSA) and the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) have all launched initiatives in a bid to encourage more people from ethnic minorities to attend matches.[109]

Arthur Wharton, born in Gold Coast (today's Ghana), was the world's first black professional footballer, playing as a goalkeeper for Darlington, although he was pre-dated by Andrew Watson, who was a Scottish amateur footballer. Other early non-white footballers include Walter Tull and Hong Y Soo.[110]

Dark-skinned Everton centre-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 reportedly punched the offender 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.[2]

Steve Mokone, a black South African who later played for Barcelona, left Coventry City after his manager said to him, "We brought you over here and you are not satisfied. That's the trouble with you people"; Mokone interpreted this as being racist, and he swiftly signed for Dutch side Heracles Almelo.[111]

The player Roger Verdi, who is of Indian origin, changed his name from Rajinder Singh Birdi due to racism.[112]

In the 1960s, West Ham United players Clyde Best, who is black and from Bermuda, and Ade Coker were subjected to "monkey chants" and had bananas thrown at them during West Ham's games. Best had blamed this on the influence of the National Front on the football terraces.[113]

In the 1980s, racism in football in England was rampant. Paul Canoville was abused by his own fans when he warmed up for Chelsea before making his debut.[114] Garth Crooks was regularly subject to racist chants and banners from opposing fans during his time at Spurs. Cyrille Regis endured monkey chants from Newcastle United fans on his away début for West Bromwich Albion and was later sent a bullet in the mail following his call-up to the England squad.[115] In 1987 John Barnes was pictured back-heeling a banana off the pitch during a match for Liverpool against Everton, whose fans chanted "Everton are white".[116]

Aston Villa striker Stan Collymore accused Liverpool defender Steve Harkness of racist abuse during a match at Villa Park in April 1998.[117]

On 21 April 2004, Ron Atkinson resigned from ITV after he was caught making a racist remark live on air about the black Chelsea player Marcel Desailly; believing the microphone to be switched off, he said, "...he [Desailly] is what is known in some schools as a fucking lazy thick nigger." Although transmission in the UK had finished, the microphone gaffe meant that his comment was broadcast to various countries in the Middle East. He also left his job as a columnist for The Guardian "by mutual agreement" as a result of the comment.

In 2004, Millwall became the first club to be charged by The Football Association over racist behaviour by their fans. The charges related to abuse aimed at Liverpool player Djimi Traoré.[118] On 13 January 2007, The FA charged Newcastle player Emre Belözoğlu with "using racially-aggravated abusive and/or insulting words", referring to an incident during the 3–0 defeat by Everton at Goodison Park on 30 December 2006.[119] Belözoğlu was, on 16 February 2007, accused of more racist behaviour, this time against Bolton Wanderers' El Hadji Diouf.[120] However, on 1 March 2007, it was revealed that Diouf would not be pursuing his claim.[121] It was also later revealed that Watford player Al Bangura had released a statement declaring that he was the victim of racist abuse from Belözoğlu.[121] On 19 March he was cleared of the charges relating to the Everton game.[122]

On 6 March 2007, it was announced that the Metropolitan Police were investigating apparent anti-Semitic chants by West Ham fans before the match with Tottenham Hotspur two days previously after a video of the offence surfaced on the Internet.[123]

On 7 April 2007, in a match between Rotherham United and Gillingham, Gillingham keeper Kelvin Jack was racially abused by a Rotherham fan. On 13 April 2007, the fan was banned for life from the club.[124]

Following his appointment as manager in September 2007, Israeli Avram Grant has been the subject of anti-Semitic taunts from some Chelsea fans; Grant's father was a Polish survivor of the German Nazi Holocaust;[125] Grant has also received death threats and anti-Semitic post.[126]

In November 2008, Middlesbrough's Egyptian forward Mido was subjected to Islamophobic chanting from a small number of Newcastle fans. Mido had been subjected to similar chants the previous year, again from Newcastle fans[127] and also in 2007 by Southampton fans and West Ham fans who had referred to Mido as a "shoe bomber" in reference to his likeness to Richard Reid, the British terrorist jailed in 2003.[128]

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 sat on the substitutes bench was racially abused by a Stoke fan, who was ejected from the stadium and subsequently arrested by Staffordshire Police before being released pending inquiries.[129] Euell confronted the supporter that was taunting him. Blackpool manager Ian Holloway, who had to restrain Euell, was furious in his post-match interview, saying:

We are human beings and Jason is a footballer. The colour of his skin shouldn't matter. It was disgusting. The stewards believed what Jason said, got the bloke out and I hope he is banned for life. [He is] an absolute disgrace of a human being. I thought those days had gone. Jason was just sat in the dugout at the time. I saw his reaction and I had to calm him down. It's absolutely disgraceful.[130]

Euell, who received an official apology from Stoke City, later said:

It did hurt. I felt I had to stand up for all colours and creeds and show that we won't accept it. I'm proud that I made a stand. It was a shock to hear what came out of the guy's mouth. Racism in football is not dead and buried but it's still a shock to hear that kind of thing in close proximity. There were people near the idiot who didn't agree with it, but there were others who turned a blind eye, which was disappointing.[131]

In the wake of the incident, Spurs manager Harry Redknapp called for fans who racially abuse players to be imprisoned: "That is disgusting – there's no place for that in the game. Surely we can't have that sort of behaviour now? Anyone who does it should be put in prison – not banned from football. Stick them where they belong, in the nut-house. It's wrong."[129]

In April 2011, an initiative was launched by comedian David Baddiel to tackle anti-semitism in the sport, which was backed by players including Frank Lampard, Ledley King and Kieran Gibbs.[132]

In April 2011, two followers of Chesterfield were arrested before the start of a game against Torquay United after racially abusing a young black Torquay player who was taking part in the pre-match entertainment. Offenders Trevor Laughton and Joanne Worrall were subsequently banned from watching football or from approaching the venue of any Chesterfield matches for three years.[133]

On 15 October 2011, Liverpool's Luis Suárez was accused of racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra,[134] and The FA opened up an investigation into the incident.[134] On 16 November, The FA announced they would be charging Suárez, while Liverpool announced support for their player.[135] On 20 December, The FA concluded a seven-day hearing, eventually fining Suárez £40,000 and banning him for eight matches for racially abusing Evra.[136] Suárez had used the word "negrito" towards Evra, meaning "little black man" in Spanish. Suárez claimed that he meant the term to be taken as it is purportedly used in South America, as a term of endearment, but this explanation was not accepted by The FA.[137]

On 23 October 2011, in a match between Queens Park Rangers and Chelsea, QPR's Anton Ferdinand alleged racial abuse by Chelsea captain John Terry, claiming Terry called him a "fucking black cunt" during the game, a claim denied by Terry.[138] On 1 November, the Metropolitan Police announced a formal investigation into the allegations.[139] In January 2012, Ferdinand received death threats and a bullet was sent to him through the post.[140] On 1 February 2012 at Westminster Magistrates Court, Terry was accused of a racially aggravated public order offence in relation to the game at Loftus Road on 23 October. He entered a not-guilty plea and stood trial on 9 July.[141] On 13 July, after a four-day trial, Terry was acquitted.[142] In July, following the court hearing, Terry was charged by The FA with "using abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviour towards Ferdinand and which included a reference to colour and/or race contrary to FA Rule E3[2]". In September 2012, after a four-day hearing, he was found guilty, banned for four games and fined £220,000.[143] Evidence in his defence at Terry's trial had been given by his teammate Ashley Cole. Ferdinand's brother Rio later referred to Cole via Twitter as a "choc ice", meaning someone who is black on the outside but white on the inside. In August 2012, The FA found this to be a reference to ethnic origin, colour or race and fined Ferdinand £45,000.[144]

On 29 May 2012, the BBC reported that Swindon Town had conceded, in a response to a solicitor's letter from Jonathan Tehoue, that manager Paolo Di Canio, a self-described fascist, had made an inappropriate remark to the player which Tehoue deemed to be racist. Before this news had broken, Swindon's chairman had been quoted as being entirely supportive of Di Canio and had denied that the manager had racially insulted Tehoue.[145] In October 2013, six supporters of Charlton Athletic were sent to prison having been found guilty of racially aggravated fear of violence. The supporters had been on a train returning from a game against Fulham singing songs glorifying Gary Dobson, the racially motivated murderer of Stephen Lawrence.[146]

In March 2014, Wolverhampton Wanderers players Carl Ikeme and George Elokobi stated they were racially abused by opposition fans while playing away at Walsall.[147] No action was taken against the club.[148]

In August 2014, Malky Mackay and Iain Moody were accused of sending each other racist, sexist and homophobic text messages. Moody left his job as sporting director of Crystal Palace as a result.[149] Mackay apologised for the texts.[150] The League Manager's Association defended Mackay, claiming that the texts were merely "banter"; the LMA had to later apologise for this as well.[151][152] Mackay later denied being racist, sexist or homophobic.[153] In September 2014, Liverpool player Mario Balotelli was subjected to racist abuse on Twitter following his tweet mocking Manchester United. Balotelli had tweeted "Man Utd... LOL'", following their 5–3 defeat to Leicester City.[154] Also in September 2014, Port Vale chairman Norman Smurthwaite considered appointing Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink as manager, but decided against it partly because he believed that a racist minority of the club's supporters would make appointing a black manager a poor idea.[155]

In February 2015, Chelsea fans were involved in an incident in which they pushed a black passenger off a Métro carriage at Richelieu-Drouot station in Paris before a Champions League match against Paris Saint-Germain.[156] The supporters were heard chanting: "We're racist, we're racist, and that's the way we like it."[157] Afterwards, Chelsea released a statement condemning the actions, and vowed to ban those involved.[158] The incident prompted criticism from the football world. The FA condemned the incident, and backed Chelsea to take action. UEFA said they were "appalled" by the incident. FIFA President Sepp Blatter tweeted "there is no place for racism in football".[159][160] Chelsea later suspended three people from attending Chelsea games pending further investigation.[156]


Date indicates when the incident occurred, rather than when an outcome was reached.

Date Incident Outcome Source
15 October 2011 Danny Hylton of Aldershot racially abused two Barnet players. Hylton was given an eight-match ban and fined £1,000. Report
12 March 2012 Sky Sports cameras caught an Arsenal fan abusing Newcastle United's Cheick Tioté. The man was arrested on suspicion of a racially aggravated public-order offence. Report
20 March 2012 Crawley Town's Dean Howell was allegedly racially abused by a Gillingham supporter. Unknown. Report
15 April 2012 A 55-year-old man racially abused Didier Drogba during the 2011–12 FA Cup semi-final. The fan was given a lifetime ban from Stamford Bridge and a three-year football banning order. Report
6 October 2012 Marvin Sordell claimed he was racially abused by a Millwall fan whilst playing for Bolton Wanderers. The 13-year-old was given a ban for "the foreseeable future". Report
31 October 2012 A Chelsea fan was caught making a "monkey" gesture to Manchester United's Danny Welbeck. The 28-year-old is banned from Stamford Bridge pending a police investigation. Report
10 November 2012 Six Millwall fans arrested after unfurling a racist banner aimed at Marvin Sordell. Report


Andrew Watson was the first black football player to represent Scotland. Watson never turned professional, however, so Arthur Wharton is sometimes reported as being the first black British footballer.[110]

The book Race, Sport and British Society says there was racist abuse of Celtic player Paul Wilson by Rangers fans in the 1970s: "Rangers fans repeatedly bayed 'Wilson's a Paki' when Celtic played Rangers."[161] There have been reports that some Rangers fans used to sing "I'd rather be a darkie than a Tim",[162][163][164] with "Tim" referring to a Celtic fan. The book Sport and National Identity In the Post-War World states, "black players in Scotland were greeted with bananas thrown from the crowd and a barrage of 'monkey grunts', notably Mark Walters of Rangers and Paul Elliott of Celtic."[164] On 2 January 1988, Rangers winger Mark Walters made his debut in the Old Firm derby match at Celtic Park. Rangers lost 2–0 and Walters was subjected to racist abuse from opposing Celtic fans, who were caught on camera chanting like monkeys, throwing fruit (mostly bananas), onto the pitch and dressing in monkey costumes.[165] It was reported that Rangers fans used "implicit racism" on the same day by singing "I'd rather be a darkie than a Tim".[164] Although Celtic denounced the perpetrators, the Scottish Football Association (SFA) remained silent.[166] According to Walters, he experienced worse racial abuse in Edinburgh against Hearts.[161] Following racist abuse aimed at Walters, Rangers banned some of their own season ticket holders.[167] Andrew Smith from The Scotsman newspaper stated, "It is depressing to think that enforcement as much as enlightenment might account for Walters being the only black footballer in this country to have had bananas thrown at them."[165]

Rangers captain Lorenzo Amoruso issued a public apology after a match in December 1999 for making racist comments against Borussia Dortmund's Nigerian striker Victor Ikpeba.[168] In March 2003, Rangers fans were accused of racially abusing Bobo Baldé and Mohammed Sylla.[169][170][171][172] Rangers Chairman John McClelland stated that, "There was such a crescendo during Saturday's match although I thought I heard noises of this kind I can't be 100% sure."[172] In May 2004, Marvin Andrews condemned racism from some Rangers fans.[173]

In November 2004, then-manager of Celtic Martin O'Neill suggested Neil Lennon was the subject of chants of a "racial and sectarian manner".[174]

During a 2007 Scottish Cup tie, St Johnstone player Jason Scotland was the target of racist taunts by a handful of Motherwell fans. The offenders were promptly reprimanded by the spectators around them and were reported to police and match stewards.[175] Motherwell Chairman John Boyle later issued an apology on behalf of the club.[176] Motherwell were to court further controversy on 3 September 2007 when Laryea Kingston of Hearts was abused, although Motherwell refuted the claims.[177]

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 Romanian club Unirea Urziceni.[3] Edu wrote on Twitter, "Not sure what hurt more: result or being racially abused by couple of our own fans as I'm getting in my car."

Three Scottish judges ruled in June 2009 that "The Famine Song" is racist because it targets people of Irish origin.[178][179] George Peat, president of the SFA, has suggested that the song causes embarrassment for Scottish football and should be stamped out.[180] Peat has also stated that the SFA is determined to contribute to the eradication of offensive songs from Scottish football.[181] In November 2008, a Rangers fan was found guilty of a breach of the peace (aggravated by religious and racial prejudice) for singing "The Famine Song" during a game against Kilmarnock.[182] It was widely reported after an Old Firm game in February 2009, Rangers fans had sung "The Famine Song" at Celtic Park.[183] The Famine Song was also sung in March 2011 at a Scottish football game by Rangers fans,[184][185] nevertheless, Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill described the match as a "great advert for Scottish football". [186] The Herald journalist Doug Gillon has written that "the sectarian intolerance which divides Scottish society [...] is rooted in anti-Irish racism".[187]

In February 2011, in an Old Firm match at Celtic Park, a Celtic supporter was caught mocking black Rangers player El Hadji Diouf with monkey noises and gestures as he was about to take a corner kick.[188]

In April 2011, then-manager of Celtic Neil Lennon received an explosive device in the post. Brian McNally described this as due to "anti-Catholic and anti-Irish racism".[189] A number of high-profile Celtic fans also were sent suspected explosive devices. Leader of the Scottish Conservative Party Annabel Goldie MSP described bullets sent to Neil Lennon and a number of Celtic players as "racism and sectarianism".[190] After an attempted assault on Neil Lennon at Hearts' Tynecastle Stadium, a motion against anti-Irish racism was lodged in the Scottish Parliament.[191]

In October 2014, Celtic player Aleksandar Tonev received a seven-match ban for racially abusing an opponent.[192][193][194]


On 15 April 2012, Fenerbahçe's Emre Belözoğlu was accused of making racist comments on the pitch towards Trabzonspor's Didier Zokora. After the match, Zokora told Lig TV:

Emre and I came face to face during the match. I'll tell you what he said word for word. He called me: 'A fucking nigger'. This is the first time in my life something like this has happened to me. Emre has Africans like Yobo and Sow as team-mates – I can't understand why he'd say such a thing. We're trying to get on with our jobs. What does the colour of our skin matter? Fans, FIFA, the press are all against racist statements. I hope something like this doesn't go unpunished.[195]

Lip-reading professionals say Belözoğlu has said the words "fucking nigger". Emre received a two-game ban for his actions after it was concluded that he had used abusive, but not racist, language by the authorities. There are still questions about the low ban he received.[196]

On 12 May 2013, before the match between Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray, Galatasaray striker Didier Drogba, along with his Ivorian international teammate Emmanuel Eboué, were racially abused by certain Fenerbahçe fans during the pre-match warmups. They were allegedly shown bananas. Television cameras and some pictures clearly captured a fan waving around a banana. Though there were no monkey chants or gestures of that sort, the "banana" caused a huge controversy and Fenerbahce has been condemned. This is the second ever known racism incident in Turkey, again involving Fenerbahçe following the events that took place between Belözoğlu and Zokora in 2012.[197][198][199]

Middle East[edit]


Racist incidents date back to at least the 1970s, such as when Arab-Israeli player Jimmy Turk joined Hapoel Tel Aviv. Turk was subjected to anti-Arab abuse during nearly every game he played.[200] According to Itzik Shanan, director of communications at the New Israel Fund, among most racist fans are supporters of Beitar Jerusalem, also Hapoel Tel Aviv fans have been using slogans promoting a Holocaust against Maccabi Tel Aviv.[201] Israeli right-wing football supporters taunt Arab players during games, especially those who play for the mixed Arab-Jewish team Bnei Sakhnin.[200]

Under Israeli law, football fans can be prosecuted for incitement of racial hatred. The "New Voices from the Stadium" program, run by the New Israel Fund (NIF) amasses a "racism index" that is reported to the media on a weekly basis, and teams have been fined and punished for the conduct of their fans. According to Steve Rothman, the NIF San Francisco director, "Things have definitely improved, particularly in sensitizing people to the existence of racism in Israeli society."[202] In 2006, Israel joined Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE), a network set up to counter racism in football.[203]



At a 1994 match in Melbourne between the Croatian community supported Melbourne Knights and the Greek community supported South Melbourne, many ethnic slurs were exchanged between the two sets of supporters.[204]

North America[edit]


In the first day of the Apertura 2006 tournament, fans of Santos Laguna made guttural sounds imitating a chimpanzee against the Panamanian player Felipe Baloy of Monterrey as he scored a goal. During the game, Santos Laguna's fans had also chanted other racial slurs towards Baloy, including "chango" ("monkey") and "come platano" ("banana eater").[205] The disciplinary commission of the Mexican Football Federation sanctioned the Santos club to a sum equivalent of 5,600 days of league minimum wage for the racist insults.[206]

United States[edit]

Overt displays of racism at U.S. soccer matches are extremely rare, compared to the EU and Russia. However, during a 24 May 2008 Major League Soccer (MLS) game between the Columbus Crew and the New England Revolution, Revolution forward Kheli Dube (originally from Zimbabwe) scored a goal against the Crew in the 89th minute of the game. An unidentified fan in the audience shouted out a racist slur. The incident was subsequently posted to the video sharing website YouTube, and MLS promised an investigation. In response to the epithet, Revolution player Shalrie Joseph reportedly made an obscene gesture towards the offending fan. Assuming that MLS could have identified the fan, Commisoner Don Garber promised to ban him.[207][208][209]

In July 2013, two former (caucasian) coaches of MLS side Chivas USA filled a discrimination suit against the team. In this suit, they claimed that Chivas had become a racist squad after ridding themselves of most non-Mexican players and coaching staff following several unsuccessful seasons. After the allegations were presented to a wider audience on HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel", MLS released a statement saying, "MLS has zero tolerance for discrimination or prejudice of any kind... And although allegations in this lawsuit raise serious issues it would not be appropriate for us to say anything more while the litigation is ongoing." Nothing significant happened following the accusations.[210][211][212]

South America[edit]


On 14 April 2005, the Quilmes player Leandro Desabato was arrested for racially abusing Grafite, a black Brazilian player.[213] He was held for 40 hours, but no charges were brought against him after Grafite decided not to press charges.[214]


Racism in Brazilian football was discussed by the media in the run-up to the 2014 FIFA World Cup, held in the country.[215]

In September 2014, Grêmio were banned from competing in the Copa do Brasil after some of their fans were seen racially abusing an opposition player.[216]

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