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RACISM AT THE WORLD CUP


Europeans are quick to call America racist which is very ironic since Europe is defined by millenia of racism and xenophobia. The reality is that Europe is tons more racist than America the difference is that Americans never bother to keep up on what's happening in Europe so we don't even know about all of their racism. In contrast, the guilty hypocrite Europeans like to try and put America down for being racist while they work to make sure that black people never come into their countries.

One way to see how racist European society is is to look at the World Cup and how atheletes of immigrant backgrounds are treated by their country and sports commentators. In America, people would never comment upon players immigrant backgrounds as relevant to the play. In Europe they're obsessed and embarrassed by the fact that their best teams are not composed of white Europeans but black players with African backgrounds.



In 1998 France won the world cup -- like they did this year -- on the basis of their players who have immigrant backgrounds. In 1998 when this first happened, the French media suddenly discovered the multicultural face of France, renaming the team “Black, Blanc, Beur” (black, white, Arab - a reference to France’s tricolor flag). That was the first time that minorities had been so widely celebrated.



Over the past few decades, many politicians have questioned the “Frenchness” of the national team because of the players’ skin color. The first was far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, who said in 1996 that it was “a bit artificial to bring in players from abroad and call it the French team.” His mind was incapable of anchoring those players - mostly born and raised in France - as being truly French.

In 2005, while many cities in the banlieues were exploding with outrage over of the deaths of two innocent teenagers who had been chased by police, philosopher Alain Finkielkraut gave an interview about French identity. He asserted that “people say the French national team is admired by all because it is black-blanc-beur. Actually, the national team today is black-black-black, which arouses ridicule throughout Europe.” In a way, he translated a discomfort that was showing more and more in French opinion. In 2000, a poll indicated that 36 percent of the French population thought that there were “too many players of foreign origin in the French football team.”

During the 2010 World Cup, the team encountered many discipline issues. Instead of an investigation into the dysfunction that had led to such a situation, the criticism was focused on questioning the players’ loyalty to their country since they had roots abroad. Roselyne Bachelot, who was then the minister of sports, said that they had “tarnished” the image of France and castigated them as a team of “gang leaders” in front of the National Assembly.

In 2011, the French Federation of Football was accused of applying quotas in training schools in order to have fewer players of African background. Laurent Blanc, a coach who was part of the 1998 team, reported a conversation he had with his counterparts from Spain, and said that they told him, “We do not have any problem … we have no blacks.” When someone asked whether they should limit the numbers of blacks in France, Blanc answered that he was in favor of that.

In past years, several players have been criticized over the fact that they did not sing the national anthem. Even if some of the white players from the younger generations, like Michel Platini or Eric Cantona, did not sing “La Marseillaise,” the same action from players of African descent was interpreted in a totally different way. Because of their origins, they were suspected of not being French enough.

This racism issue is not confined to France but effects all of Europe. Other players from immigrant backgrounds faced similar backlash during the World Cup. Swiss players Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri ― both of whom are of Albanian-Kosovar descent ― were blasted by Switzerland’s right wing and parts of the country’s media as “not Swiss enough” after they celebrated goals against Serbia by making pro-Albania gestures.



Romelu Lukaku wrote before the world cup about the same sort of racism that the French players experienced. “When things were going well, I was reading newspaper articles and they were calling me Romelu Lukaku, the Belgian striker,” Lukaku wrote for The Players’ Tribune. “When things weren’t going well, they were calling me Romelu Lukaku, the Belgian striker of Congolese descent.”

Mesut Ozil has just announced his retirement from the German national team because of ongoing racism he says. Özil announced that he would no longer play for his country, thanks to the “racism and disrespect” he experienced from fans and top German soccer officials.

Germany had a lot of problems at the World Cup but it's totally unfair to blame their failure on him. Özil was far from Germany’s worst player at the tournament. He led all World Cup players, in fact, in goal-scoring chances created per 90 minutes, and he served up seven such chances in the team’s final match, against South Korea. But no player has faced more vitriol from German fans since the team’s disappointing finish, and finally, Özil, a Muslim of Turkish descent, got fed up.

“I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose,” Özil said in the Sunday statement announcing his retirement. “I was born and educated in Germany, so why don’t people accept that I am German?”

Özil’s retirement brought a sudden end to an abbreviated national team career that now serves as a microcosm of Europe’s shifting stance on immigration and the continent’s growing anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant hysteria. Özil was born in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, and was a pivotal piece of the golden generation that powered the national team’s resurgence. He was a key player on the team that won the 2014 World Cup ― even before that, he was given an award that recognized him as a model for integration in the country. Now, like immigrants in Germany and so many other countries, he’s a convenient scapegoat.

Özil’s accomplishments for club and country have never shielded him from unfair criticism that he is “lazy,” “unmotivated” and he lacks the gung-ho body language of a proper footballing man. But a World Cup staged in the midst of far-right German demagoguery about immigration turned all subtext into text, and turned Mesut Özil into the xenophobes’ favorite symbol of everything wrong with modern Deutschland.

That vitriol stems largely from a controversy that erupted before the World Cup, when Özil appeared in a photograph with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Erdoğan, an autocrat who has cracked down on political dissent in his country, then used the picture in his re-election campaign, prompting criticism from many Germans that Özil had helped legitimize an authoritarian figure.



Özil answered the criticism on Sunday by saying that his decision to appear in the photograph next to Erdoğan was apolitical, and that he would have taken a similar picture with any president of the country of his ancestry. There’s ample room to criticize that approach: The statement makes Özil look like a political naif for thinking that picture could ever, as Özil wrote, have “no political intentions,” especially in an election year, especially after the NBA’s Enes Kanter, an ardent Erdoğan critic, was briefly detained in a Romanian airport because his passport had been canceled by the Turkish government. Özil is free to respect the institution that is the Turkish presidency; he also should have anticipated that the man occupying that institution has no respect for him as anything more than a convenient PR prop.

But to paint Özil as the chief problem is to assume that much of the criticism leveled at him was made in good faith, when so much of it obviously was not. For high-ranking German political officials and members of its ascendant right-wing party, the AfD, the photograph was also a prop, a bludgeon they could use to beat the message into Özil, and other German Muslims, that they were not and never would be sufficiently German.

Before the World Cup began, members of the AfD and Germans sympathetic to their cause used the controversy the image created to argue that Özil didn’t belong on Germany’s World Cup squad, or at least should be demoted from the starting lineup to the bench. A member of the German legislature called him a “goatfucker”; another, according to Özil’s statement, said he should “piss off to Anatolia.”

During the tournament, an AfD member told HuffPost Germany that Özil was “an example of how integration has failed,” and an indication that Muslims had “infiltrated” Germany.

After Die Mannschaft’s lone win of the 2018 World Cup, against Sweden, a fan called Özil a “Turkish pig,” the player wrote in his statement, adding that he’s since been besieged by “hate mail, threatening phone calls and comments on social media.”

The attacks were not the only reason Özil quit. He was also mad that the German national soccer federation and its president, Reinhard Grindel, were less than eager to defend him from that sort of bigotry. Grindel was particularly incensed over the photograph, and spent the weeks before the World Cup demanding that Özil apologize and stewing over his exclusion from Özil’s meeting with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, during which the pair attempted to smooth over the controversy.

Özil recounted this in his statement. He had receipts, too, that the controversy was an exercise in race-baiting. Grindel, the player noted, has his own history of making anti-immigrant statements, and as a member of the legislature he voted against legislation that would benefit immigrants. He’s faced no censure for it, and the German federation, as Özil also pointed out, has not raised its voice at all about one of its top officials cheerily appearing with noted authoritarian Vladimir Putin during the World Cup.

The federation made more of a mess of the situation in trying to respond to Özil on Sunday, when it issued a statement that ultimately blamed Özil for much of the backlash. Members of the AfD reacted to the statement by reiterating their claims that Özil is, as one AfD politician said Monday, “a typical example of the failed integration of far too many immigrants from the Turkish-Muslim culture.”