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The World Cup of Racism

Which national team has the biggest bigots?

Collage by Marta Parszeniew

Eighty-three of the players selected for this year's World Cup squads – or 11 percent – were not actually born in the country they represent. This has created a fair amount of confusion among the world's racist morons, who don't seem sure whether to cheer the migrant players smashing in goals on their nation's behalf, or castigate them with racial slurs. With most of the teams now sent packing, we thought it was a good time to start a new competition – the World Cup of Racism!


Nations qualify for the World Cup of Racism by having race issues within their football culture and wider society. However, they don’t score any points in the competition until they’ve given their country’s idiotic racists an existential crisis.


(Photo via)

England can't really compete at the World Cup of Racism. God knows English football has its bigots, but if Balotelli joined England, he'd probably be welcomed as a messiah-type figure.

There's plenty of racism in Mexican football – particularly among fans of Pumas in Mexico City. Brazil is also battling racism in football, despite being one of the most racially diverse countries in the world. However, both sets of fans have been busying themselves with homophobia, rather than racism, shouting, "puto", meaning faggot, at players during goal kicks and corners. FIFA decided it wasn't homophobic, which is weird.

Speaking of FIFA, shouts also go to head honcho Sepp Blatter for claiming that the corruption claims surrounding the Qatar World Cup are "racist". This surely qualifies him for some kind of special award for devaluing the gravity of calling something racist.


The France squad that played against Norway in a recent friendly


In 1998, France got on top of the football world with its "black-blanc-beur" team – back-white-arab. There were white players like Deschamps, African-born players like Vieira, Zidane the Maghreb, and Thuram from Guadeloupe – a French territory in the Caribbean. The fact this team won the World Cup in its own country made it easier to glorify the communion of all the different types of French people. Which was nice.


An internet meme says: "Refuses to sing the Marseillaise, but give 3 million Euros to construct a mosque in Lyon. With Benzema it's 'Islam First'"

But racist sentiment reared its head again as soon as France stopped winning, especially after 2010 when Les Bleus gave their most shameful performance in the history of the World Cup, totalling one point, one goal and a planet's worth of amused ridicule after they famously went on strike. People used the "Knysna fiasco" as an argument to ask for players like Evra (born in Senegal), Nasri or Benzema (both of Algerian heritage) never to be selected again because they didn't "respect the flag". Less was said about the white players who didn't sing La Marseillaise or forgot to get off the bus, too. It's even more ridiculous if you consider that Nasri and Benzema weren't even in South Africa that year.

Zidane didn't always sing La Marseillaise, but he was always a genius on the pitch, so nobody had anything to say. But when Benzema went through a year-long goal drought, his silence during the anthems was criticised a lot. That's how it is for French footballers with foreign roots: either they're good, or they're aliens.

Photo by Jake Lewis


Team America's German manager courted controversy by cutting soccer legend Landon Donovan in favour of five German-Americans. Four of them are the sons of US servicemen. In any case, the furore has been pretty muted, because the biggest racists in America are right-leaning, lower income people from more rural areas, and those people hate "soccer" and the kind of metropolitan dweebs who watch it more than illegal immigrants, probably.


Image via


In Italy, when you think of racism and football, you think of Balotelli. Born in Sicily to Ghanaian parents before being fostered by a middle-class white couple in Northern Italy, Mario is certainly not the first black player to feel the wrath of racist Italian fans, but he is the first to have represented the national side at a major tournament. He's probably one of the most entertaining personalities in football and one of Italy's real talents, but unfortunately he gets a load of abuse.

In 2009 at Turin’s Stadio Olimpico, while playing for Inter Milan, he was insulted throughout the whole match by the chorus, “A negro cannot be Italian!” After his transfer to AC Milan, Paolo Berlusconi, the team’s vice-president and brother of the former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, was filmed saying, "Okay, now we are all off [to the stadium] to see the family's little nigger.” In 2013, during the Milan derby, his former Inter supporters welcomed him by waving plastic bananas. As Inter president Massimo Moratti declared after the match, "My compliments go to the public, they really behaved themselves. They avoided doing anything unpleasant.”

During Euro 2012, UEFA charged Croatia over racist chants against Balotelli, but it was the Italian supporters who called him a "black piece of shit" during the training session at Coverciano, right before the World Cup. And after Italy crashed out, someone posted a video on instagram saying, "Mario, you're not really Italian. Go away."


Italian racists think of their behaviour as just a fun way to pass the time. As a racist I unfortunately overheard put it, Mario Balotelli "is not hissed at because he's black, but because he's a dickhead”. Which is obviously bullshit.


If a non-white player comes to play in Spain, he has a high chance of having a banana thrown at him, particularly if he is any good. However, the racists never mess with black players on their own team. Spanish racists would probably kiss the feet of a hypothetical black, Asian or whatever Spanish football star if he scored in the World Cup. This didn't happen this time around, not only because Spain sucked, but because there was only one player who was not born in Spain – Diego Costa, who is Brazilian.


Two German fans determined to show the whole world what irredeemable pricks they are at the Germany vs. Ghana game (Photo via)


Non-native players have been an issue for the German far right ever since the team stopped being comprised solely of blatant Aryans like Carsten Ramelow. The National Democratic Party for Germany (NPD) have ranted about players not singing the national anthem, and before the 2006 World Cup they printed a racist pamphlet bearing the message: “White – not only the colour of the jersey! Campaign for a real German national team!" It was specifically aimed at humiliating black German player Patrick Owomoyela, but if they were to exclude everyone other than pure-bred Germans, they'd currently be without the talents of Mesut Özil, Sami Khedira, Jerome Boateng, Shkodran Mustafi, Lukas Podolski and Germany's all-time top scorer, Miroslav Klose. So basically they'd be pretty fucked.


In order to find out whether the NPD have been kicking up a stink for a "real" (AKA worse) German team at this World Cup, I called up Sebastian Schmittke, the notorious head of the Berlin NPD. I asked him if he was happy about the migrant players in the team and he said, “Not exactly. But one can’t do anything about it at the moment. There is no point in fighting it.” I guess racists getting bored can only be a good thing.

BUT, just in case you thought German football racists had given up the ghost, two turned up to the German vs. Ghana game wearing the kind of blackface that would make an Oxbridge student blush.

Krylia Sovetov fans throw a banana at Roberto Carlos


Russia's was the only World Cup squad to be composed entirely of people who both live and work in the country they're representing, which, sad to say, might be a mercy, because Russian football fans can be astonishingly racist.

You know things are bad when a fan group from one of Russia's biggest teams, Zenit St Petersburg, had to start a statement with "We're not racist but…" after the signing of two black players in 2012. Zenit splurged upwards of 100 million euros on the Brazilian Hulk and Belgian Axel Witsel, who had been playing for Porto and Benfica respectively. But, rather than hail the ambition of the purchases – players coveted by many of the top clubs in Europe's elite leagues – members of Zenit's Landscrona fan group (its biggest) released a manifesto urging the club not to sign any black players, "We're not racists but we see the absence of black players at Zenit as an important tradition," it read. "For us it is crucial [that Zenit] has retained its own identity, and not turned into an average European team, with a standard set of foreign players."


Other shining examples include when Brazilian legend, Roberto Carlos, was offered a banana by a Zenit fan at a pre-match ceremony while playing for Anzhi Makhachkala in 2011. The player considered retiring when, three months later, Krylia Sovetov fans threw a banana at him during a game. The previous year, Lokomotiv Moscow fans unfurled a banner at a game saying "Thank You West Brom" with a banana at the bottom after the Premiership team bought Lokomotiv striker Peter Odemwingie, a black player of Nigerian and Russian descent.

Earlier this year, when Manchester City played against CSKA Moscow at home, CSKA fans were heard racially abusing City player Yaya Toure, which resulted in a partial stadium closure for their next Champions League game against Bayern Munich. Not to be outdone by the Germans at the World Cup, Russian fans were spotted with neo-Nazi flags during their opening game in Brazil.

Bring on the Russia World Cup 2018!


Supporters, comment se passe votre lundi matin? La fête continue ou retour à la sobriété? #tousensemble #WorldCup2014

— BelgianRedDevils (@BelRedDevils) June 23, 2014

Kompany, Divok Origi and Felani playing for Belgium in the World Cup


The current Belgium squad have been dubbed a Golden Generation. A Belgian squad without migrants would be without Romelu Lukaku, whose father played for Zaire – now the Democratic Republic of Congo – so you could kiss that extra-time victory over the USA goodbye. Marouane Fellaini's parents are from Morocco, and Vincent Kompany has a Congolese father and French mother. You get the idea – the "Red Devils" would be watching the action on the telly at home, crying into their Leffe.


When Belgium didn't qualify for Euro 2008, Filip Dewinter, a leading member of the far-right Flemish Interest party, started a petition to have a “Flemish Lions” team, and to force the French-speaking Walloon minority play in a separate team. Obviously this would have halved the Belgians' chances.

Belgium's slow but steady form at the World Cup has had foreign commentators talking up the potential that remains in a team that could, in triumph, unite the nation. With so many of the best players being from immigrant backgrounds, maybe they'll strike a blow against xenophobia, too.


Switzerland's national football team without immigrants. Maybe they should rethink yesterday's vote?

— Mathias Bolton (@Mathias_UNI) February 10, 2014


Switzerland wouldn't be in Brazil with a "purely" Swiss team, which is ironic, because there's nothing the Swiss love more at the moment than giving immigrants a hard time. Recent legislation has included a ban on minarets on mosques and a ban on face veils. They recently voted to impose a quota on immigration, which means they might have ruined their chances of ever lifting the Jules Rimet, given that their current squad list reads like a guestlist for a Balkan wedding.

When midfielder Granit Xhaka fluffed a shot against Albania in qualifying, a lot was made of his Albanian heritage. I called Dominic Lüthard, Chairman of PNOS (the Swiss Nationalist Party) and he said, "Whenever I see that the mouths stay shut during the national anthem, I have to ask myself whether there wouldn't have been other, equally gifted players. For example, Alex Frei." You know you're clutching at straws when you're bemoaning the exclusion of Alex Frei, and the national anthem is going to change next year anyway.

I also talked to Walter Wobmann of the Swiss People's Party, who said it's "not really a Swiss team any more. It's an international one. Kind of a troop of mercenaries." That was weird, because being a mercenary – like the Pope's Swiss Guard – is a core part of Swiss national identity.

More on the World Cup:

The Quatari World Cup is Robbing Football of its Heroes

Which Team Should You Hate at the World Cup?

Contra a Copa: The Other Side of Brazil's World Cup