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Wayne Lumbasi

Racism in European football is a long-standing phenomenon that has changed shape and form over time.

From individual fans either throwing bananas or making monkey-like sounds to organized neo-Nazi fans celebrating on the terraces, the superiority of all things white, non-white football players has long suffered abuse in football.

Overlooked by football’s governing bodies for several decades, racism in football was only highlighted in the early 1990s, when the first anti-racism organizations devoted to tackling racist abuse in sport came to life. Thirty years later, the criminal offence that is racism in football not only is still present, but it has also invaded yet another domain of social life–the digital world.

The latest instances of the ugliness that afflicts football are the racist taunts directed at Coventry midfielder Kasey Palmer in an English second division match at Sheffield Wednesday and custodian Mike Maignan of AC Milan at Udinese.


Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, and Bukayo Saka, all of whom are black, were targeted after missing penalties in the Euro-2021 final against Italy.

Rashford, Sancho and Bukayo saka. /Getty Images/

In October 2023, the English football authorities launched another anti-racism campaign.They made it clear that they would “continue to put pressure on social media companies to do more to eliminate hate from their platforms.”


Racism in Italian stadiums is not a new phenomenon, but several incidents have recently received widespread attention due to the personalities or reactions of the players targeted.

Marc-Andre Zoro of Ivory Coast was one of the first to take a stance in 2005, picking up the ball and preparing to leave the pitch. His Messina teammates persuaded him to return to the game.

Stars like as Samuel Eto’o, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Mario Balotelli, and, most recently, Romelu Lukaku have faced abuse from fans.

For French international Maignan, the events on Saturday were heartbreakingly familiar—he was racially abused by Juventus supporters in 2021.

“I am neither the first nor the last to whom this will happen. As long as these events are treated as ‘isolated incidents’,” Maignan said.



Germany has cleaned up its stadiums, at least in the Bundesliga, but racism persists on social media. In 2023, Bayern issued statements of support for French players Dayot Upamecano and Mathys Tel, who were targeted online following poor performances.

The last serious incident in the stands occurred in 2021, demonstrating the Germans’ sensitivity to the issue. A third-division match was called off after half an hour due to monkey chants from a spectator. Both clubs, Duisburg and Osnabruck, supported the decision.


Vinicius Jr, Real Madrid’s Brazilian striker, has been the subject of repeated racism. In June, FIFA President Gianni Infantino met with Vinicius to defend him and directed referees to address the issue at the national level.

Vinicius Jr. /Getty Images/

Barcelona’s Samuel Eto’o faced a barrage of abuse from Zaragoza fans in 2005, including monkey chants and peanuts thrown at him. Eto’o celebrated his goal in a 4-1 victory by dancing in front of his tormentors.

“I danced like a monkey because they treated me like a monkey,” said the Cameroon star. Zaragoza were fined just 9,000 euros. In 2014, after a banana was thrown at him, Brazil’s Dani Alves, picked it up and ate it slowly before taking a corner.

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Wayne Lumbasi

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