Leon Balogun, the Nigerian international footballer is of the opinion that handling racism is more of collective responsibility of all the countries and that more stringent punishments are required to keep a check on it.
The 31-year-old defender for Brighton also supports players who walk off the pitch upon facing any such incident, however, admitted that doing so is only a part of the actions that need to be taken.
In times when people should be focussing on issues such as VAR and how it has affected football, it is rather unfortunate that racism is occurring time and again everywhere and is rearing its ugly head.
Players shouldn’t be forced to continue playing
In an interview to BBC Africa recently, Balogun urged the fellow team players of the person targeted on the pitch to fully support him/her in the event that s/he decides that walking off the pitch is the only option. In a nutshell, not too much pressure should be put on the person to continue playing.
Talking to BBC he said, “It’s like they are afraid because the manager might say ‘if you don’t want to play, even though you might be an important player to us, we can replace you’ and so that’s something you will think about at least twice. That is what a team is supposed to be. We are a family. We are walking off [together], this would empower so many players who are racially abused because that way they then wouldn’t feel alone.”
He believes that so as to send a strong message to the spectators who indulge in such racism, the other fans who don’t take part in it, should also get involved in the protest. In his explanation he said that the only way such people can rethink their actions is by taking away from them what they love so much – the opportunity to see their favourite players in action.
As leaving the pitch will also impact people who don’t partake in such behaviour, but yet have to see their favourite players walking away, they should perhaps take a stand and ostracise such fans who indulge in racist behaviour.
Need of harsher punishments
There has been a considerable rise in racism incidents across Europe, which has been dealt with partial stadium closures and severe financial penalties. Balogun feels that the type of sanctions that are being handed down to the teams don’t seem to have the desired effect. There is a need to take some extreme steps right now, perhaps even banning the football team or taking away some points from them if needed. There is a shock factor required, the same kind of shock that racism gives to the affected players.
The Germany-born Nigerian player has been at the receiving end of racism first-hand. In 2018 while he was playing for Mainz, there were people among the Hanover fans who made monkey chants targeted at him. He strongly believes that the authorities must make an example out of the clubs whose supporters indulge in such racial abuse.