MacDonald: MLS should be a haven from racial abuse in World Football

Staff Writer

Telegraph Front Page, Balotelli taunted with bananasIt’s often painful to look at something one loves and see the warts.

Soccer, while beautiful, is far from a perfect game and is often marred by off-field issues like the cronyism that infects FIFA. However, one of those warts seems to be getting more infectious and ugly with each new report; racism in the European game. Despite the “best” efforts of those in charge, the battle sadly seems to be making little to no gains.

Racism in European football is nothing new. The problem was bad enough in 1999 that “Football Against Racism in Europe” (FARE) was started. 14 years later, the reports of racism, and the shocking organizational fearlessness of its perpetrators are coming in at an alarming rate. There’s the Zenit St. Petersburg Ultras group that doesn’t want any non Slavic players. There’s the racist taunts towards Kevin-Prince Boateng that caused AC Milan to walk of the field in a match. There’s the racist taunts towards Jozy Altidore in the Netherlands. There’s reports of racism coming out of Millwall in the English Championship. AC Milan the victims again, and Mario Balotelli in particular twice this month, at the hands of their Inter rivals.

Want further evidence that it’s a problem that just isn’t going away? Inter’s president Massimo Moratti expressed outrage on February 11th at the first incident and promised there would be no repeat. Sunday’s reprehensible display by Inter fans should dim even the most optimistic fan’s hopes for change. It’s a disturbing and disgusting trend that seems to mirror 1920’s America when racial tensions brought forth such reprehensible groups like the Klan.

The players have all been applauded for keeping their chins up in the face of these animals. The question is, when is enough enough? When does FIFA’s taciturn reaction to the problem become enough for these players to pack their bags and say, “See ya later, I’ll take my services elsewhere.”

The fact is, there is one affluent country where this reprehensible behavior absolutely would not occur.

That is the United States of America (well, you too Canada) – and by extension, Major League Soccer.

Major League Soccer should become a model of fan behavior and a haven for players who have to deal with racism in Europe because the very simple fact is they shouldn’t have to deal with it to begin with.

MLS has declared it wants to be one of the top leagues by 2022 (though their snail’s pace financial plan makes one wonder if that’s feasible). If they start opening the checkbooks some more, they can provide a tough, yet friendly league for players of color to ply their trade. The quality in MLS would go up while the players would be able to play in peace and the idiots in Europe would be left wondering why their teams suddenly aren’t as good anymore.

Sure, Thierry Henry has voiced a worthy suggestion that teams who’s fans display this filthy behavior should be deducted points, but the fact remains that attitudes don’t change because of some blanket rule; if anything, it’ll only entrench bitterness.

The U.S. is a melting pot built upon a strong minority population. It is the kind of world Europe can only dream of having (err, or not dream of judging by the rabble attending some of these matches). Europe will never be integrated like the United States is and thus it’s truly hard to see the problems of racism ever really going away.

Considering how progressive we are, is it any shock to see the countries diversity reflected in the the United States Men’s National Team? The USMNT has a number of German born and raised/half African American players on it’s team. In their native country, they have a history of referring to them as “Brown Babies” or in German, “mischlingskinder.

This is what makes our country so special.

It’s the 21st Century. Racism should have no place in this world and we should be long passed the days when Jackie Robinson bravely put up with such nonsense. This country has been a life line for all kinds of people in the past. Once again, it can do the same for professional soccer players of color.

The MLS just needs to open its checkbook. When that happens, these players who have suffered such abuse can find their home as many others have in the past; within the United States. The benefits of playing in North America would not only be professional, but they would be moral as well and would help continue to build upon this countries bedrock immigrant story.

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  • NEW: EoS writer @PMacD82 explores how #MLS should be a haven from racial abuse in World Football:

  • alex

    Great article! Once again you are on top of your game with this one!

    I love this game and the mls and the USA!

  • jspech

    well. people may not express it quite like they do in Europe, but let’s not forget that racism is very much alive in the USA. I’ve never been to Canada so I can’t say

    • Anonymous

      Not saying its not.. But we are decades beyond what is still occurring in Europe. Can you imagine racial taunts at a hockey game? Forget our most popular sports.

    • Yes, racism still exists in many forms throughout this country, but this piece isn’t about that. Racism like that displayed in stadiums in Europe does not exist here. Anyone who would dare such behavior here would likely be met with fan outrage and immediately ejected and banned from the stadium.

  • Anonymous

    “Europe will never be integrated like the United States is…” – um…think you might be over-reaching a tad there.
    Balotelli himself being a case in point.

    Great point that American soccer culture has much to teach FIFA – Sepp should read this article. But not sure you do your argument any favors by making unsustainable claims about European sociology.

    • Incorrect. Non-European minorities only make up 3-4% of Europe’s total population whereas non-Caucasian people make up almost 28% of the United States population.

  • Anonymous

    Really? From your ability to read present data, you assume the ability to predict the future?
    It’s the “will never” that seems to be an over-reach. The trajectory of those data supports your claim – it’s statistically impossible for the nations that comprise the continent of Europe to one day sustain societies as diverse as that found in America?
    The next block over from my house has great trees; my block has saplings: you’re saying my block will never have trees like they have on the next block?

    Also when did “Non-European” become a synonym for “non-Caucasian”?

    • When the cataclysmic shift in European demographics that you think is possible happens, I shall buy you a beer.

      By using the terms “Non-European” and “Non-Caucasian” I am pointing out the minority groups specific to Europe and the United States.

  • Agree with the basic premise of this article, and it should be a point of pride for American (and Canadian) fans. Organized, widespread racial abuse from fans simply doesn’t exist here. It wouldn’t be tolerated for a second. A situation along the lines of the Inter/Balotelli story would literally become the biggest story in American sports. ESPN would focus on it nonstop for weeks.

    But you hit on the bigger point as well – money is still the biggest factor. The best soccer players in the world will come to MLS if/when MLS offers the most money. That’s it.

  • Amidst the madness yesterday you may have missed @PMacD’s “MLS should be a haven from racial abuse in World Football”

  • Anonymous

    Well we recently had an incident at a college hockey game where a group of students attended in garments that looked like KKK robes and masks. The school though is dealing w/ the issue.

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