- Soccer icon Ruud Gullit ‘disappointed’ players didn’t ‘protect’ racially abused star Moussa Marega
- “Normally if a player in your team is getting kicked, you help him,” Gullit said
- “The blatant disregard for protocol is unacceptable, and players should be united and walk off together in their condemnation of racism…”
Racism has been a stain on the soul of soccer for generations, but a series of high-profile incidents in recent years has prompted calls for tougher action from football’s governing bodies.
In the latest raft of racist incidents in football, Porto Muslim striker Moussa Marega walked out of the pitch during Sunday match against Vitoria in reaction to being subject to racist abuse.
The 28-year-old forward tried to leave the game only nine minutes after scorning the match’s winning goal and celebrating it by pointing to his skin.
Sport TV reporter Ivo Costa, who was at the game, told CNN that monkey chants throughout the game were clearly audible.
Kick It Out, a leading UK organization that works to tackle discrimination in professional and grassroots football, questioned why the game’s match officials had not done more to support Marega.
“This is really tough to watch,” said a Kick It Out tweet, responding to video footage of the incident.
“The blatant disregard for protocol is unacceptable, and players should be united and walk off together in their condemnation of racism, instead of this.”
Porto manager Sérgio Conceição refused to talk about his team’s 2-1 win in his post-match media conference but instead addressed the racism directed toward his player — which he said had started during the warm-up.
“We are enraged by what happened. I know the passion there is for Vitoria, but I’m sure most fans don’t identify with the attitude of some people who sat on the stands tonight,” he said.
“We are a family, regardless of nationality, regardless of skin color, height, hair color. We are a family, we are human and we deserve respect. For me, what happened here is shameful. Just shameful.”
The incident was decried by Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa who also tweeted his support for the striker.
“Total solidarity with #Marega, who in the field proved not only to be a great player, but also a great citizen. #NoToRacism,” he wrote.
Vitoria de Guimaraes said the club opposed to all forms of racism and promised to work with the judicial bodies to act “firmly and consequently.”
“The history, the present and the symbols of the club are tributaries of an inclusive, integrating identity and based on values of equality and universality,” a club statement read.
Portugal’s top-flight league also promised to “do everything” to ensure such an episode does not go unpunished.
“Liga Portugal does not agree, nor it never will, with acts of racism, xenophobia, intolerance and any other that jeopardize the dignity of footballers, agents or, just, any human being,” a league statement read.
“The values of football are not compatible with what happened tonight at the Vitória Sport Clube’s stadium, in which an athlete no longer endured the insults he was being targeted and chose to abandon the game.”
“These acts embarrass football and human dignity.”
Muslim and African players have been victim of racial attacks for years in European football pitches.
In 2018, Muslim football star Mesut Özil resigned from the country’s national team after facing racist abuse.
Samir Nasri, while he was playing for Manchester City and the France national team, also expressed concerns over growing Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiments in France in 2016.
However, in the English Premier League, a recent report by Football Against Racism in Europe (Fare) found that the positive impacts of Liverpool Muslim star Mohamed Salah on and off the pitch has led to a significant decrease in the level of hate and race crimes.