Soccer is The Beautiful Game, one which connects fans of various cultures across a global landscape through the love and support for the traditional black and white checkered ball.
But while soccer brings excitement to millions of fans across the globe, it is still plagued by the ugly specter of racism. Regardless of the size of the league or geographical location, racist fans still subject players to vociferous incidents of ignorance, some even letting their children exhibit the same foolish behavior.
In Sunday's match between Pescara and Cagliari, Sulley Muntari, Pescara's Ghanaian midfielder, complained to the referee about the crowd's racist chants. But instead of being supported by referee Daniele Minelli, Muntari got hit with a yellow card, infuriating the player to the point where he walked off the pitch during stoppage time, leaving his team a man down during the final few minutes of the game. He explained the situation to reporters afterwards.
“There was a little kid doing it with his parents standing nearby,” said Muntari. “So I went over to him and told him not to do it. I gave him my shirt, to teach him that you’re not supposed to do things like that. I needed to set an example so he grows up to be nice.
“[The referee] told me I should not talk to the crowd. I asked him if had heard the insults. I insisted that he must have the courage to stop the game,” Muntari added. “The referee should not just stay on the field and blow the whistle, he must do everything. He should be aware of these things and set an example. I am not a victim. But if you stop the matches I am convinced that these things won’t happen any more.”
Unfortunately, this is not the first, second or tenth time that blatant racism has made an appearance at a soccer match. We witnessed the mental and physical affects it can have on players through Everton Luiz, who physically broke down and started crying after being subjected to racial taunting in his team's match against Rad Belgrade.
"I’ve been suffering racist abuse during the entire 90 minutes and also was upset by the home players, who supported that. They were all attacking me. I want to forget this as soon as possible. I love Serbia and the people here, that is why I cried. But please say no to racism"- Everton Luiz
(Photo Credit: Mirror)
We've seen the beauty of the sport marred through the ignorance of bananas being tossed on the field and fans pushing Black passengers off of a trainin France while gleefully chanting "We're racists!" Yet regardless of penalties administered against these fans, it persists to the point where grown men can't even play a full game without breaking down into tears, and those are not ones of joy.
So what can be done to drastically reduce, or ultimately eliminate, racism from the sport of soccer? That's really a rhetorical question because you can't actually eliminate it. But you can confront it, and what better place to do that than on the Pitch itself.
Could you imagine if players banded together in protest on the pitch before or during the game? Not to deliver a speech or hold a banner, but to actually disrupt a game, even for a short period of time, to bring attention to an issue which continues to persist.
Imagine if they adopted a Kaepernick-like movement and took a knee on the pitch? Yes, fans would go ballistic and some might even charge down on to the field. It would probably pose safety concerns as soccer fans have been known to rush on to the field and even attack an umpire, but taking a stand against something as ugly and vile as racism has never been an easy task.
And if fans can occupy the field in protest of an owner's poor management of the team, then surely some could find the courage to take a stand against a more important issue regarding humanity, or a lack thereof.
In the Pescara game, the rules state that after the incident, the referee should have alerted the fourth official who then should have reported it to the public security department, who is responsible for policing at games. While we don't know if this procedure was followed or not in that game, Muntari took a stand that other players could duplicate when facing the same situation.
While this obviously won't be well regarded by all, especially Pescara's coach Zdenek Zeman, who disagreed with Muntari leaving the pitch, it could bring much needed attention to a sport that needs to do more to combat global racism.
“Muntari has abandoned the pitch because of racist chants but we should not take justice into our own hands,” he said. “We have been talking about racism for years now but nothing happens. Today, this has happened to Muntari who has been playing in Italy for several years now. We need a change of mentality.”
And maybe that mentality starts with some "act right", which could equate not to a physical response, but rather to one man simply taking a knee on the Pitch.