Racism and discrimination rampant in French amateur soccer

Even as France’s soccer team boasts having a multicultural squad and a 2018 Word Cup win, racism continues to be a stifling issue, especially for players like Kerfalla Sissoko, the New York Times reports.

Sissoko said about a month before his team won the World Cup, he and other Black teammates were viciously attacked by a rival team and fans who hurled racist insults at them. The incident happened to the 25-year-old near the northeastern city of Strasbourg during a league match.

Sissoko said he ran for his life and feared that he’d die as he was confronted with a knife and was brutally beaten up and had his cheekbone broken.

“I was so afraid and so disgusted, that I felt like I would never play soccer again,” Sissoko said.

Many have called for the race issue to be issued and dealt with and say the French are not doing enough to ensure race issues are resolved.

“It’s very complicated to bring up the issue of racism in the French society, because in France we pretend to be blind to colors,” said Lilian Thuram, a defender on France’s 1998 World Cup championship team who has closely followed Sissoko’s case.

“That day, I saw myself dying on the pitch,” Sissoko said.

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But Sissoko was punished and suspended for 10 games because the referee said he provoked the fight.

“That is the world of soccer for people of color: You have to be three times better than your adversaries, or fight,” said Francis Mante, 39, a referee and former amateur player in the Strasbourg area. “We call it the beautiful game,” he added, “but it’s set up in a very cruel world.”

In March, a survey of 300 amateur sports clubs published by the antiracism organization Licra revealed 74 cases of racism. The racism has become so pervasive, the report claims that many instances go unreported.