“I can’t breathe.” The end line of helpless George Floyd is burning the mighty America inside out. Mr. President is hiding in a Bunker and darkness is looming over the White House. Just like the many brutal dictators before him, the rage of the people is shattering the throne and slowly the protesters are triumphing over Trump.

During this time of chaos and liberation, football is being missed dearly. I have always felt that football has a magic of its own and it would have conveyed the messages of this uprising world-wide. In these difficult times of the pandemic football is been missed for its political importance more than the ecstacy of playing it.

In this capitalistic world, all those clubs, the sponsors and everyone who cares about the financial side of the game has to stand with the majority cuddling their philosophies and views. But still football has the ability to change the views upside down. The magicians who weaved magic on the field have always been able to change the racist equations off the field with a ball as their weapon of choice. Football has a history of both racial discrimination and classic retaliations. Even the best of men who played the game have stood up for this.

Zinedine Zidane head butted Marco Matterazzi in a world cup final match and getting the marching order from the reff is a classic example of this. Even though France lost the cup, the finals would be remembered for Zizou.

There are many instances in the game where the legends acted bravely against racism on and off the field. The mighty Ruud Gullit, the Dutch legend has always been in the frey for his stand against racism. He made a comment about the Dutch national anthem while he was the captain of the side and those words shows how much he hated racism. And it goes like this:

“Before each international match, when the national anthem is played, each player will have his own ways of feeling it and if we have to explain its meaning to a foreigner they would be surprised. If you point out the mentions about the German blood and the King of Spain in the anthem, then the amusement will be even greater. Holland’s national anthem is a tribute to immigrant Spain and they assume it as something to be proud of. I have nothing to say about it and I always stay quiet during the anthem and one thing that I am proud of, is representing my country.” This statement is a historical one for its political importance. Gullit is openly expressing his anger and disagreement with the German – Spanish racism, by neglecting the anthem of his own country, the country he played for and captained.

In 1987 Gullitt took his fight against apartheid out of the field to a stage of celebrations by dedicating his world footballer award to Nelson Mandela. ‘This’; he told a world in which the anti-apartheid struggle was yet to fully take root, ‘is for Nelson Mandela’, and it happened to be an extraordinary gesture.

Years after the Gullit heroics, something similar happened in the Dutch football recently, Ahmad Mendes, a Dutch second division player has been verbally abused by fans during a match and Mendes was reportedly called as a “monkey”. The abuse was followed by pure show of solidarity for the victim.

His team mates walked off the field and the Dutch football association pledged to conduct an investigation and punish the perpetrators.

The incident came into light when Ahmad Mendes’s fellow countrymen Georginio Wijnaldum and Frenkie de Jong chose to stand up against racism with a special celebration during their euro qualifiers against Estonia. After opening the scoring for his team Wijnaldum run over to the touch line and called over his teammate De Jong , both of them held their forearms together and pointing out the different skin tone to highlight the fact that football is a game for every race and colour.

The Successors of Johan Cruyff and Ruud Gullit are playing the game beautifully on and off the field standing together for the oppressed. Soon after Frenkie and Wijnaldum showcased the celebration against racism the entire league and the association came forward strongly against racism with the teams refusing the first touch for 60 seconds after the whistle and the supporters chanted anti-racist slogans. The football united the hearts against discrimination.

The football has always been a reason for joy and a powerful weapon to spread unity. The game once stopped the world war for a day, will continue to surprise us forever.

Contemporary world is like a coin with one side full of chaos, where those who are bound to protect the people are becoming the predators and suffocating them to death. On the other side, a statement of racism is being treated with utmost importance and a country is standing together against the oppressor.

I wish and I hope that the world will see the light.

Soon the ball will start to revolve around the world again, telling stories of the oppressions, inspiring lives to fight, to survive and to rise above hate…

Nazer Malik is a writer, musician and activist.


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