Wednesday night’s 3-3 draw between Chelsea and AS Roma at Stamford Bridge provided plenty of entertainment, with goals, chances, twists, and turns galore during the 90 minutes. But the occasion has now been marred by the emergence of a video showing fans in the away section racially abusing Chelsea center back Antonio Rüdiger towards the end of the game.
Rüdiger, who transferred from AS Roma to Chelsea this summer, was a second-half substitute for the Blues, replacing Davide Zappacosta for the final 15 minutes of the game. The “monkey chants” could be briefly heard as Rüdiger ventured forward in search of a winning goal, but they’ve been largely ignored in the 24 hours since, outside of a few notes on Twitter. This video makes it fairly clear however that the fans were indeed abusing the player.
This must call for at least an investigation from UEFA, who’ve claimed repeatedly over the years that they want to kick racism out of the game.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time Rüdiger, who is of German and Sierra Leonean descent, has suffered such abuse. In fact, it was one of the motivating factors behind him leaving Serie A for the Premier League, as he revealed at the start of this season.
“Not all Italian people are racist. For me, I just want justice. I want FIFA or the FA in Italy just to suspend those people who do that. It is not all the people in Italy who are like that. If we always talk about racism in Italy, people think that all Italians are racist people and it is not like that. I just mean those specific people who do that. And it is not all. But those people need to be banned from the stadium or fined.
"You feel alone. People love to say 'stay calm' or 'don't do anything'. It is easy for you to say those things when you are not black and you never feel what it is like.
"You cannot even put yourself in my position of how that feels. In that moment, it is like this. You are alone. You have to be strong. But each human is different. Someone takes it and doesn't react. Others react. I can understand both."
-Antonio Rüdiger; source: Sky
That wasn’t the first time Rüdiger had to speak up about racial abuse, either. Nor was he the only high profile victim of such abuse last season in the Serie A, with Sulley Muntari (whose reward for reporting the abuse to the referee was a red card and suspension, later rescinded after public pressure) and Mehdi Benatia (who was abused live in a post-match interview) also joining this sad list. Back in May, Rüdiger urged the Italian FA to address these issues.
“I take this very seriously because I cannot and must not ignore something like this. I am part of this too. Racism is a serious issue here.
“Incidents like the ones with Benatia and me simply happen too often in this country and that is why something must happen now. When the Italian FA is not doing anything then Fifa must act. It is easy to come up with the ‘No to racism’ campaign but when you don’t do anything concrete then that does not help.”
Now it’s UEFA’s turn to act, since the latest incident happened in the Champions League. Stamford Bridge is filled with security cameras, so hopefully Chelsea will help out as well. Football’s come a long way from the dark days of the ‘70s and ‘80s, but as this incident or the equally recent Eni Aluko abuse case shows, the work is far from done.