Soccer Team Atones for Racist Fans
Chelsea plans to invite the black man abused by its supporters at a French metro station before a Champions League game against Paris Saint-Germain this week to its London stadium for the return leg.
The offer came as Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho discussed the Paris incident involving racist fans for the first time, saying Friday: “I feel ashamed with being connected with these sad things.”
A group of Chelsea fans were filmed stopping the man from boarding a Paris metro train on Tuesday and then chanting: “We’re racist and that’s the way we like it.”
“We feel very sorry about it,” Mourinho said at Chelsea’s training ground. “We want to fight it. We feel ashamed and we want to apologize to the gentleman.”
The man has been identified as Souleymane S. by Le Parisien newspaper.
“We are writing to Souleymane,” Chelsea spokesman Steve Atkins said during Mourinho’s press conference. “We are inviting him and his family as guests to the return leg against Paris Saint-Germain (next month). We hope he will take up that offer.”
The man told the BBC on Friday that he was yet to hear from Chelsea, which is currently the top team in the Premier League.
Across London, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who is French, said the incident showed how racism remains “society’s problem.”
“More intelligent people than myself think about that and nobody has found a miraculous solution, it certainly starts from childhood education and an open-minded attitude,” Wenger said.
“There is a danger of having radical people in every society. Since I observed youth movements, there are always certain people who are ready for radical solutions and most of the time you have to control them.”
Chelsea continues to investigate the incident, announcing Friday that two additional people had been suspended from attending its Stamford Bridge stadium. Three people were also suspended on Thursday from attending games, and they could all face life bans from the club.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter described the Chelsea fans as “incomprehensible” in his column in the organization’s weekly magazine, which also highlighted criticism of former Italy coach Arrigo Sacchi this week.
Sacchi was denounced for saying that “there are too many colored players” in the youth sides of Italian clubs, which is affecting “national pride and identity.”
Blatter said he did not want to “name and shame” Sacchi, referring to him only as the “former national team coach,” and adding: “I do not believe the unfortunate individual meant what he said.”
But Blatter, who is seeking a fifth, four-year term as president in May, did say that “claiming to be misunderstood is no excuse.”
“FIFA has fought all forms of discrimination for years, not always with the success we hoped for,” the 78-year-old Swiss said. “But we still do it — now more than ever. Respect for fellow human beings, valuing our differences, promoting diversity: this is the match we have to win, over and over again every day.”
Further condemnation of the Chelsea fans came on Friday from the United Nations at a briefing in Geneva, which highlighted the ongoing need to eradicate racism from sport.
“This was not an isolated incident. Similar acts of cruel and casual racism take place every single day, all across Europe, without arousing much indignation, because they are not caught on camera,” said Rupert Colville, spokesman for the U.N. high commissioner for human rights.
“It is important to build on the outrage created by this snapshot of the ugly face of racism, to re-energize the effort to combat it in all its forms wherever it occurs.”