It was news Tuesday that the Vancouver Whitecaps had hired a coach with a history of racist behaviour, but the story is part of a much larger, much older issue.
Manchester City’s England forward Raheem Sterling has been awarded The Integrity and Impact Award at this year’s BT Sport Industry Awards for speaking out on a range of social issues, including racism.
When it exploded into the public domain this week that the Vancouver Whitecaps had hired a coach who had been sanctioned and fined by the Football Association for racist abuse of his players, it predictably ignited a firestorm.But that is a cultural inferno that has long been burning, with flares of awareness spiking with increasing frequency in world soccer.Just this season alone has seen several high-profile incidents in European soccer.Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling has become somewhat of a torchbearer in the fight, after being abused by fans in an away match to Chelsea. He voiced public support for Juventus striker Moise Kean, who was not only showered with racist abuse by Cagliari fans after scoring, but was also blamed by teammates for causing the reaction.In December, Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubayemang had a banana skin thrown at him, which was one of the same charges that saw Brett Adams — then coaching with Notts County in England in 2013 — eventually fined and suspended by the team.Adams allegedly threw a banana at a black player on his club’s youth team — with “f*** off” written on it — and told him to “f*** off and eat it.”He was hired by the Whitecaps a few months after quitting Notts County in 2013. The Caps said they were unaware of the charges until Adams was punished by the FA after the investigation’s conclusion in 2015, and that he’d been “exemplary” as a coach in his time at the Whitecaps’ academy in Nelson.NEXT GAMESaturdayPhiladelphia Union vs. Vancouver Whitecaps2 p.m., B.C. Place Stadium, TV: TSN; Radio: TSN 1040 AMThe taunts, chants and abuse are not a new story. But the social climate has changed, and players and their representatives have begun fighting back.The Professional Footballers’ Association launched their “Enough” campaign, which saw some of the world’s leading players hold a social media boycott. The PFA estimated it reached more than 90 million people with its initiative, and are following up by collecting a trove of social media evidence it plans to present to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.Sterling even criticized media for making the situation work in an Instagram post in December, one that resonated with many young, black athletes.“I don’t think I’m trying to make a difference, as I said it’s about speaking [about] what you’ve experienced and some people probably shied away from that but I’m a person when I do feel that something’s not quite right I want to speak about it. … If more players speak out then the better it will be,” Sterling told the Daily Telegraph.Closer to home, both Derek Cornelius and Doneil Henry witnessed the environment that players had to endure in Europe, Henry from his time at West Ham, and Cornelius in Germany and Serbia.Even Whitecaps coach Marc Dos Santos, who is of mixed Portuguese and Canadian heritage, has been touched by the fingers of racism. His time in Brazil started off with the newspapers likening his hiring at youth club Primeira Camisa FC to that of a donkey.By virtue of his skin colour, he’s been spared the kind of vitriol that faces black players abroad, but he has empathy for those who have to weather the racist storm that seems to forever darken their skies.“I understand it. I lived it, a lot, against me. I had it a lot against me a lot in the two years I lived (in Brazil), unfortunately,” he said.“When you’re a foreigner in Brazil — and they’re proud of their coaches — when you’re a Canadian coach and you’re going there … it’s like a Brazilian coach coaching in the NHL — I don’t know how well perceived it would be. I understand how unfair it is.“I saw a lot of examples in soccer with Sterling, with (Kalidou) Koulibaly last year in Napoli. And I think that, in 2019, that we’re still talking about these things, it’s quite incredible. Who cares where you’re from? Who cares?”Koulibaly, a centreback for Napoli considered on the same level as Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk, was taunted with monkey chants by Inter fans during a match last year. He was subjected to a two-game ban after being red-carded for sarcastically applauding the official in the game.Inter was later penalized for its fans actions by having to play two games behind closed doors.When Keane, the teenage Juventus forward drawing comparisons to Ronaldo, scored against Cagliari earlier this month, he responded by standing stock still in front of the bleachers, silent, but with his arms raised in triumph, as the boos and chants rained down on him.He was defiant, as was Koulibaly, showing a strength and poise that Dos Santos admired.“I’ve heard a lot of things,” said Dos Santos. “(The abuse) could be because of your nature, because of your religion … because of your colour, because of where you come from … All of that should stay away from what the game is.“I think the case of Koulibaly … I know of a lot of things that were happening in games, I felt he was strong. He was focused on the game. He knew what the Napoli players and fans thought of him, but he was able to focus and be probably the best centreback playing in Italy that year.”firstname.lastname@example.org/TheRealJJAdams CLICK HERE to report a typo.Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email email@example.com