Chelsea FC and PSG are set to meet again in the UEFA Champions League round of 16 this year. Last year’s fixture was marred by a racist attack by Chelsea fans in the Paris metro and hence an anti-racism group has set up a welcome committee for the Blues’ fans this time around.
After the 1-1 draw between Chelsea and PSG in Paris last year, a group of Chelsea fans pushed a coloured man out of the metro while chanting ‘We’re racist. We’re racist. And that’s the way we like it.”
The victim was a French Sales manager and suffered huge psychological damage after the incident as he refused to attend work for 6 months. The incident was roundly condemned by the footballing community and the London based club even imposed lifetime bans on the 5 fans involved in the event.
French anti-racism group SOS Racisme and a charity group named Sportitude fear that tensions from the last incident might spill over to this year’s game as well. In order to prevent such a thing from happening, they are planning to organize a welcome committee for Chelsea fans arriving at the train station.
“As this match approaches, the images of what happened on the Paris Métro will be shown again and that could create a climate of tension that risks stigmatising English supporters,” said Hermann Ebongue,vice-president of SOS Racisme and head of Sportitude, according to The Guardian.
“The best way for us to tackle this is not to simply place lots more police in Paris but to make a gesture to remind people that football is about shared values. We want to show that that racism, violence, antisemitism don’t have any place in football. We also want to avoid English supporters being stigmatised. It’s important that the minority behind the Métro incident do not tarnish all the other supporters who had nothing to do with it. We also need to be sure that no scenes like this will be seen again.”
The move is being considered by the Paris authorities and could well see a powerful gesture of anti-racism sentiments in the footballing world which is desperately needed in the wake of several occasions where hatred and bigotry has taken precedence over the love of the game.
Say no to racism
The footballing world has seen it’s fair share of racism. The most recent incident was in the Italian Serie A, where a match between Lazio and Napoli was stopped due to the racial abuse faced by the Partenopei’ center back Kalidou Koulibaly.
Chelsea was involved in yet another incident a couple of years ago as captain John Terry was banned and had a fine imposed on him by the FA for racially abusing a player on the pitch. During a league match between the Blues and QPR, he allegedly used the n-word in an altercation with Anton Ferdinand, the brother of Manchester United great Rio Ferdinand.
It is ironic that players of colour were some of the pivotal figures in Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea team who first announced the Blues’ rise to the cream of the crop in 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons. Forward Didier Drogba remains one of the most revered figures to have graced Stamford Bridge. Defensive midfielder Claude Makelele, who is widely acknowledged as one of the finest deep lying play-makers of all time, was a colored Frenchman, the same ethnicity as the victim of the racist attack by the fans.
Whether it’s people throwing bananas in La Liga or the use of the ‘N’-word on a regular basis in the Premier League, racism often shows it’s ugly face in the footballing world ,and it’s eradication is one of the top priorities in the game today. It is something that needs to be dealt with in a serious manner, and the French group’s proposal to fight this social evil through peace and love is a commendable effort in this direction.