With all that is happening in the world, football is left in behind. On Blackout Tuesday, we have decided to talk about the future of football hopefully without racism and discrimination. Now and forever, black lives matter.
The world has finally woken up from the violence and hatred that comes from the nightmare that is the duality and toxicity of our societies. It is heart-warming to see all that is happening, the change in mentalities while others go out of their way to show everything that the protestor does not stand for. After all this craziness, Earth might become a more peaceful place where race, colour, religion or sexuality does not divide us but instead helps us understanding the other.
Football, a game that is played and watched by all, is no different from the discrimination that occurred in the modern era. The division is engrained in the beautiful game’s culture. Still, we, as football fans, have tried to steer clear of the illnesses that are xenophobia, racism or any form of discrimination.
❛ Racism springs from ignorance ❜
Football has a dark history of discrimination, and it began with the Ballon d’Or. The coveted prize was initially given exclusively to European people, a shame for a game that thrives when everyone is united with each other. Now, more than 70 years after that rule, Europeans have dominated the trophy, and only George Weah stands in this hall of fame as an African man.
Also, one of the most significant issues in football is its openness towards everyone. Everyone, whether they are racist or not, can watch the beautiful game without any kind of restrictions and this freedom often blinds the most hurtful of haters. How many times did you hear about a player getting racially abused? It happened in every country, no matter the division.
Players like Kevin-Prince Boateng or Malcom have had to cope with racial slurs in Italy and Russia. Antonio Rüdiger had to fight for his case to get justice after Tottenham fans racially abused him. His club Chelsea aren’t so innocent, and Paris Saint-Germain fans could tell you how rude the racist Blues fans were. Over in Spain, Boixos Nois from Barcelona have also mocked black people for their colour. André Onana, the excellent Ajax Cameroonian keeper, told the press that he was close to signing for a European club, but they backed off because of his colour.
Anti-Apartheid demonstrators in 1965 outside the Waldorf Hotel in London where South African cricketers were staying | Photo by Clive Limpkin / Express via Getty Images
However, there was a glimmer of hope when the South African World Cup was announced. Football’s most prestigious competition took place in a country where the authoritarian racial segregation system Apartheid had done some damage, and these people knew how racism divided the human race. From this point, the beautiful game should have moved on and become more of a unit. Still, all the mentioned events happened after the World Cup 2010.
Now, ten years later, the human race has had an eye-opener concerning discrimination and football fans should finally become more aware of the people they are hurting. Football is full of racists; there was always racist players, coaches and fans, but there was still a well-received reaction towards those racists. Emre Belozoglu racial slurs towards Didier Zokora led to him being harassed by the Ivorian in their next encountered. Former Spain coach Luis Aragonés reportedly told Thierry Henry that he was black shit and then lost to France in the round of 16 of the 2006 World Cup. He also had an altercation with Patrice Evra, who shut him up by scoring a goal.
But the best reaction to ever come out of a racially abused player was the Dani Alves banana incident. The Brazilian was getting ready to take a corner for Barcelona at the Madrigal when a Villarreal fan decided to throw a banana at him. The right-back ate the banana, and the fan was banned for life. Furthermore, his actions began a movement in which Mario Balotelli, Zlatan Ibrahimović and many others participated against racism.
Currently, more than six years after the banana incident, we have to learn from everything that is happening in the world. Football is now a sport that is used to unite others, no matter their differences. We see Juventus, Barcelona or Chelsea setting up academies on Africa, the Middle East or the American continent, and it is beautiful. Seeing kids from Lebanon play along with Canadians and Ivorians to teach them unity from the youngest age is the way to go for football.
❛ I am going to run like a black man to earn like a white man ❜
It does not do only to say that racism is a common enemy on social media, no. We must be united against it and outcast the people want to harm others mentally and physically. It does not do to support players after racist slurs just like Liverpool did after Luis Suárez called Patrice Evra a “Ni**er”. Going forward, everyone affiliated with the football world should be ashamed of what is happening in the world, and they shall try to take a stand in this fight.
The direction we have taken in football in recent years has been near perfect, we have banned racists and tried to unite the world. Netherlands’ Frenkie de Jong and Georginio Wijnaldum showed the world what unity was a few months ago and they have reminded everyone the fight we are all in. What’s pleasing to see is the fact that every club in the world has taken action, no matter their past. It is commendable to see everyone is in this fight together and have shown the way for the younger ones.
❛ Football is beautiful because whether you win, draw, or lose, you can go and shake your opponent’s hand, whether they are white or black or red or blue ❜
Football is one of the first educators in the world before teachers and just after parents. Children often look up to their idols and their favourite clubs. They wait for a whole week to see their stars in action and talk about what they have felt playing a game. Imagine the impact Mario Balotelli’s tears had when he was racially abused against Inter a few years ago. A young child would then understand that something went wrong there and it didn’t have a place in football and the world.
Ajax posted a picture of their academy youngsters and showed that no matter the colour, the origins or the religion, we should be able to teach the youngsters in their fight for unity.
Younger and older generations will surely learn from that experience and football will hopefully be bereft of all those bigots that have tried to divide the human race for so long.
Consistently persistent: The Antoine Griezmann story at Barcelona
Going into yesterday’s game against Sevilla, things were finally starting to look up for the team. After all, before that, they had beaten that same squad 2-0 at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium in La Liga and were raring for revenge in the Copa del Rey as well. Ronald Koeman’s new system was looking like a success, and players like Sergiño Dest and Ousmane Dembélé were coming to their own. At first glance, life for everyone at the Camp Nou was finally going in the right direction. Everyone expect Antoine Griezmann, that is.
The news that he’d be starting the all-important clash against Sevilla on the bench must’ve been tough to hear. After all, that was his third game in a row where he would sit on the sidelines instead of being included in the gala XI. For a player of his calibre, reputation and status, that is almost unfathomable.
First, there was the game against Elche. Barcelona managed to win that one comfortably, putting away three goals to snatch all three points on the night. Griezmann, however, would participate only for 14 minutes before the final whistle with no real contribution to his name. That change came on the back of the necessity to rest the Frenchman. Next was the first of the two victories over Sevilla, and that one was even worse.
Griezmann found himself on the bench for the whole duration of the game, not even getting the chance to play in what was a glorious day for the Catalans. With everyone happy for the result, the performance and camaraderie, we completely forgot about Griezmann, our €120 million signing. And that was the main issue. How can you forget about him when he’s supposed to be a key player in this squad?
Then came the third game as Barcelona welcomed Sevilla to the Camp Nou for the return leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final. And Griezmann? Well, sadly he was on the sidelines again as Koeman seemingly couldn’t find a way to squeeze him into his new and refined system. But this time around, with Barcelona needing one more goal to force extra-time, the Dutchman was somewhat forced to call upon his World Cup-winning bench-warmer just before the 70th-minute mark.
The ‘Griezou-signal’ was lit, and the former Atlético Madrid superstar sprung into action, making his presence felt almost immediately. Of course, the highlight of his evening was sending Diego Carlos back to Andalusia with that excellent dummy and assisting the goal, but for the most part, the work he did won’t show up in stats.
This is the crux of the problem too. Griezmann does so much for the team, and yet, all of it is so difficult to put into something palpable. Yes, he’s also scoring goals, but when he’s not, he’s often getting attacked for not doing enough. This, needless to say, is harsh and sometimes even unfair.
But it’s also not exactly that simple either. A striker will always be judged by his performance in front of goal. Roberto Firmino of Liverpool is maybe the greatest example. There are not many others of his elk in the footballing world, but despite all the incredible things he makes possible for the Reds, the Brazilian was still harshly criticised once his output had gone down. The same may be happening to Griezmann.
He’s an unbelievable utility guy — a player whose movement both creates and exploits space while also offering an outlet in tight spaces and in transitions. The problem is that despite all of that, the unmeasurable will never outweigh the measurable in the eyes of the fans.
Of course, that’s unfair, but it’s also expected. Not everyone is an expert, and we often take things at face value, which is not ideal but rather the path of least resistance. So it’s always easier to write him off because the stats tell you to do so. Even the eye-test might not initially present you with a palpable contribution worthy of a €120M signing. But it is there, hidden underneath.
And the best part? It’s finally starting to show in the stats too. Let’s take his 57 minutes played against Sevilla as an example. Had it not been for that excellent assist, many wouldn’t have bothered to even look at him twice, but it was very much an incredible display.
According to SofaScore, Griezmann recorded 36 touches on the night, deploying three key passes, one of which was the crucial assist to Gerard Piqué, completed both of his dribbles, maintained excellent accuracy with 23/25 passes and won five out of his six ground duels.
Not to mention, he continued to display his incredible work-rate off the ball, filling in for the limping Pique as a false-centre back. We have come full circle, yes, but the World Cup winner made an incredible inside the box against a pass that was well on its way to an unmarked Youssef En-Nesyri.
So in that single be-all, end-all performance against a tough opponent, the Frenchman has managed to participate in all phases of Barcelona’s play. Now that is what you call a palpable contribution if there ever was one.
But even if you wanted to make an argument that this is not happening consistently enough, stats beg to differ. Griezmann may be struggling but even so, his output is getting better and better with each passing game. Again, consulting SofaScore for all of our stats, it’s fascinating to see him grow over time.
In his first season at the Camp Nou in 2019, Griezmann was only able to register 12 goal contributions (eight goals, four assists) in 23 games. The next year, that figured rose to 14 goal contributions (12 goals, two assists) in 44 games in 2020. And now in 2021? He’s only 17 games in but already at 16 goal contributions (seven goals, nine assists), eclipsing both of his previous two tallies. Quite impressive, to say the least.
Griezmann for Barcelona so far:— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) March 4, 2021
2019: 12 goal contributions (8 goals, 4 assists) in 23 games.
2020: 14 goal contributions (12 goals, 2 assists) in 44 games.
2021: 16 goal contributions (7 goals, 9 assists) in 17 games.
— @SofaScoreINT pic.twitter.com/oE8ETbuZXT
But that is not all. With a total of 27 goals, he is already the third-best French goalscorer in the history of the club, equal with Dembélé and 22 behind the legendary Thierry Henry. His nine assists across all competitions for the Blaugrana, however, mean that he’s recorded more than any other La Liga player in 2021 so far.
So however you turn and however you choose to look at it, Griezmann is still performing admirably. Maybe more is expected from him but that’s only because we know that he is world-class.
However, it still remains to be seen whether Koeman truly believes there’s a place for him in his new system. If so, who would he be replacing anyway? It’s a tough question that’s very difficult to answer and despite his obvious improvement, nothing in life or football is guaranteed.
Griezmann, just like everyone else, will have to fight for his spot in the team. Whether he emerges victorious or not won’t depend entirely on him, though. As for us, we can only wait and hope for what’s best for the club, whatever that may be in the long-term.