Racism: How Germany has stood for inclusion

Racism: How Germany has stood for inclusion
Danny Da costa (Courtesy : DFL Getty Images Lukas Schulzs)

Once upon a time in the vibrant, diverse and multi-ethnic country of Germany, the fight against racism became a battle that polarized the nation.

The Bundesliga, the country’s top division in the league, stood firmly against any form of discrimination, with the Deutsche Fußball-Bund (Germany Football Federation) taking the charge.

But it has not been smooth-sailing.

Danny da Costa, a talented right-back who plays for the German club FSV Mainz 05, has experienced racism.

"I consider myself lucky that I haven't encountered racism that often,” da Costa noted.

“However, there was one instance in 2012 when I played in the second division against a team in Munich. It happened around the 60th minute when the entire stadium erupted into monkey chants every time I touched the ball."

This disheartening experience left da Costa with a mixture of shock, surprise, disgust and and disappointment.

As a German-born player who had attended school in the country and represented its youth teams, he couldn't fathom being subjected to such racist behavior.

Determined to address the issue, he immediately sought help by approaching the referee and discussing the incident with officials from both clubs.

An investigation was promptly launched, tirelessly working to identify the individual responsible for igniting the hateful chants.

Tom Julian

Tom Julian, the international public relations and communications officer with the Bundesliga, acknowledges the persistence of racism everywhere.

"Unfortunately, racism occurs all over the world and Europe. The DFL vehemently opposes it."

Recognizing the urgency to combat racism, the league organises international weeks against racism, during which all 36 teams of the country’s two top divisions unite in a powerful stand against discrimination.

These weeks involve various protests and signs to convey a message of solidarity and inclusion. For the DFL, the commitment to eradicating racism goes beyond symbolic gestures.

They launched the "Stop Racism" campaign, considering it more than just a pin badge. It encompasses a holistic approach that permeats every aspect of their operations.

The campaign is aimed at fostering an environment of inclusivity, respect, and cooperation with the clubs, ensuring that incidents like da Costa's become a thing of the past.

“The DFL maintains a zero-tolerance policy towards racism; we work closely with clubs, law enforcement agencies and local authorities to remain vigilant and prevent such incidents from occurring,” Julian explained.

“Continuous engagement and partnerships with relevant stakeholders has helped create a safe and inclusive environment within German football,” he added.

Germany's resolute stance against racism shines brightly, illustrating the nation's unwillingness to tolerate discrimination in any form.

United and determined, they strive to break down barriers and create a society where everyone, regardless of their background, can flourish without fear of prejudice.

Oma - the journalist

Oma Akatugba, a celebrated Nigerian senior journalist based in Germany, who has covered international football events including the Champions League, German League, Italian League, Europa League, among others, shares his insight about racism in German football.

"As a journalist, I haven't personally experienced racism in Germany. However, I believe it's often a matter of perception,” Akatugba remarks.

“Germany as a country is actively working to erase its history of racism and is making commendable progress. However, racism in football still exists worldwide. For example, racism is prevalent in Italian football, and it's a cancer that must be completely eradicated from the football ecosystem across the globe.

“There is still a lot of work to be done, and players need to speak up more while football administrators must put in greater efforts."

In this tale of resilience and collective action, Germany showcases its unwavering commitment to inclusivity, inspiring other nations to join hands in the fight against racism.

An absolute victory in the war on racism may remain a tall order but the efforts to stifle the vice must never relent.

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