Racism storm hangs over Rangers’ Europa League exit

CW: Racist language

The past few months have seen racism rear its ugly head multiple times; throughout all footballing standards, players are forced to deal with the repugnant presence of racist abuse. Be it a seemingly constant barrage on social media, or within empty football stadiums, there is no doubt that football faces perhaps its most persistent foe in racism. It’s up to UEFA, and national associations around Europe, to decide whether they want to fight back in earnest or concede defeat.

At Ibrox, Slavia Prague’s impressive Europa League campaign, and all but assured 2-0 victory over 9 man Rangers, rightfully took a back seat in the 87th minute. It is alleged that foul racist abuse was suffered by Rangers’ Glen Kamara from Slavia’s Ondřej Kúdela, and further ugliness continues to transpire.

Connor Goldson, Rangers’ centre-back and captain, has reiterated the claim that Kamara was racially abused. Whether UEFA can confirm or deny the goings-on, the optics of the incident for Slavia and Kúdela look terrible, and Alexander Bah’s dismissal of Rangers as ‘sore losers’ may age horribly. It becomes increasingly difficult to defend the Czech player when you consider that he ran from 40 metres to then get in Kamara’s face, and covered his mouth to say what Kamara alleges was “you’re a f***ing monkey, you know you are”. Slavia insist that Kúdela and Kamara’s interaction was not racially charged. Kúdela claims instead to have said, “you f***ing guy”, however, Rangers midfielder Bongani Zungu was repeatedly seen telling the ref that Kúdela had called Kamara, “a monkey”. 

It’s difficult to comprehend the Rangers staff and players’ reaction if all Kúdela said was what is claimed by Slavia. Kúdela was also seen walking to the team bus the following morning, where he was questioned by STV reporter Raman Bharwhaj, failing to respond to the questions posed. In Slavia’s official statement, they also claim that Kúdela was attacked by the “cowardly Kamara” and that they were in contact with the police, insinuating that Kamara has lied about the alleged racial abuse. Despite this, Police Scotland came out declaring that “No reports of criminality have been made by either club in connection with last night’s match. Police Scotland has contacted club officials and assured them that should any allegation be received; it will be investigated thoroughly.”

 It may be that the introduction of criminal charges via the Czech Embassy has delayed proceedings, but Slavia now allege that Rangers players committed a post-match attack on Kúdela, and claim to have pressed charges. Rangers manager Steven Gerrard has supposedly been named amongst witnesses. The Czech team issued a statement claiming that “After the end of the game, the team was not allowed to enter the dressing room. Ondřej Kúdela was assaulted by player Kamara and hit with fists in the head when Rangers manager Steven Gerrard witnessed the incident. Even the UEFA representatives who were also present on the site of the incident were shocked by this behaviour. The team is now safe accompanied by the Scottish police.”

The controversy of racial abuse extended beyond the pitch, as Rangers’ Kemar Roofe was subject to racist abuse from Slavia fans on Instagram, and an ultras account posted an image of a banner reading “Kamara-just a n****r”. It appears that a deplorable sect of Slavia’s fans will go a long way in further ruining the image of the Czech side. The club itself, however, has not shown off the workings of the premier outfit they are. Overtly claiming that Glen Kamara has “lied” about the racial abuse should leave a sour taste in everyone’s mouth regardless of footballing faith.  

This is far from the first time that Slavia and their fans have been involved in alleged racist incidents, with both Romelu Lukaku and Nelson Semedo having previously claimed that Slavia fans racially abused them. UEFA has historically failed to address racism, with fines for showing off a pair of sponsored boxers higher than those for convicted racists. UEFA must treat this situation with the utmost severity, as the repercussions of this decision will reverberate far and wide. Kamara’s statement about the issue does not seem optimistic:

“Since summer many of us have taken the knee in solidarity with those who have lost their lives to racial violence. If UEFA genuinely wants to ‘show racism the red card’, then it’s time to stop the tokenism and take a zero-tolerance approach.”

“As a player I do not expect myself, nor any other to have to tolerate racial hatred on or off the pitch in 2021. The vile racist abuse by Ondrej Kedel took place on the international stage and any failure to act by Uefa will be viewed as a green light for racism.”

This was not the first incident, and will not be the last of racism in Football’s upper echelons. The sooner incidents of racial abuse cease on the football pitch, the better. One would think that a sector that is so reliant on the teamwork of individuals from across the world would do better.

Image: senolselgul via Pixabay