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Asian Footballers Speak Out Against Racism

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Sport & Culture

Asian Footballers Speak Out Against Racism

Racism in football is an ugly reality, but a growing number of Asian players are speaking out.

On several occasions recently, racism has reared its ugly head in football.

In January, there was a high-profile incident that led German-Ghanaian footballer Kevin-Prince Boateng of Italian giant AC Milan to walk off the pitch after suffering racial abuse in an exhibition game against fourth division team Pro Patria.

After the game, Boateng tweeted: "Shame that these things still happen… #StopRacismforever."

Boateng received the full support of his club.

"We are disappointed and saddened by what has happened," Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri told reporters. "Milan play for the right to respect all players. We need to stop these uncivilized gestures.

"We are sorry for all the other fans who came here for a beautiful day of sport. We promise to return, and we are sorry for the club and players of Pro Patria, but we could not make any other decision. I hope it can be an important signal."

Whether players should walk or stay when they are the target of racial abuse has become a matter of debate. FIFA president Sepp Blatter thinks they should not walk away. “I don’t think that is the solution,” he said in a speech in Dubai.

With the growing number of Asian players in Europe, there have sadly been a number of such incidents.

Japanese striker Yuki Nakamura, for one, left Slovakia, where he was playing for Rimavska Sobota, after struggling with racism.

"It's a real shame but I have come home because I have been subjected to racism at Rimavska Sobota and I can't carry on living there," he wrote on his blog.

"This is not normal…Some type of threat was made to the club but they said there was nothing they could do about it, so I came home. I doubt there are many players that have experienced this."

In 2011, Japanese international goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima was subjected to chants of “Fukushima, Fukushima” while playing in Belgium.

This kind of heckling has been going on for years and not just among fans. Seol Ki-Hyeon, one of South Korea’s soccer pioneers to Europe said that he was the subject of racist chants. Ki Sung-yeung complained of something similar when playing for Celtic in Scotland

And in January, Ahn Jung-Hwan, South Korea’s star of the 2002 World Cup, complained of racist abuse by Marco Matterazi while the two were playing for Perugia in Italy at the start of the last decade.

Even South Korea’s garlicky cuisine flavored comments directed at Ahn by Materazzi who "barged into the locker room one day and barked at me in front of everyone, saying that I reeked of garlic," Ahn recalled in an interview on South Korean television.

"I didn't understand what he was saying but the translator, who was also a Korean, blushed and, at first, was too embarrassed to translate the remarks," he added before his wife said that he was subsequently too embarrassed to eat Korean food and starting a diet of spaghetti and cheese.

It is debatable whether the Italian’s comments were racist, but they were certainly offensive.

The good news is that Asian players are slowly starting to speak out more about this disturbing trend. That at least is something to be welcomed.