Although I’ve never partaken in the sport, I’ve always been fascinated by the cultural aspect of soccer. It is a sport that has the power to unite a group of people while evoking a great amount of passion. I wanted to find out what drives this profound passion for soccer globally.
Soccer, more commonly known as football, has been dubbed the “world’s game” because of its cultural values and global influence. It is estimated that there are roughly 265 million active soccer players throughout the world. It is a simple game that is channeled for competition, serenity, and escape.
Because of its high notoriety at the international level, racism within the sport has been a prevalent issue. Earlier this year, Mario Balotelli, forward for Italy’s international soccer club has been the subject of numerous racist remarks throughout his career. As a result of these insensitive verbal assaults, Balotelli has become more vocal regarding racism in soccer.
In a recent interview, Balotelli voiced his opinion on the why he thinks racism is so potent in the sport. “Jealousy is a horrible thing, but when this jealousy is towards people who are different from the majority, and who maybe also have more than you, then it becomes anger, it becomes rage, and that’s the overt racism.”
Although racism threatens to compromise the beauty of the sport, there are so many who use the sport to escape from reality and cleanse themselves spiritually.
Baradji Daillo is one of many who use soccer to escape from the worries of the world. Baradji took the time to talk to me about why he loves the sport, what it means to him, and his viewpoint on the recent increase of racism.
Q: How did you get into soccer? Was it because of your cultural upbringing or did you use it more for entertainment or fun?
A: Well, I am originally from Mali, West Africa. It is the number one sport in Mali, so everyone plays over there; from kids to adults. I’ve been playing soccer since I can barely walk. In Mali, soccer is known as football. It usually doesn’t matter if we have a soccer ball or not; as long as there is something soft enough that we can kick, we just used it as a ball. Over in Mali, soccer is basically used for entertainment. It is a way for people to bond, compete against each other, and show of your skills.
Q: It seems like the passion for the sport is so strong in smaller countries like Mali. What did soccer mean to you when you played it? Was it purely for entertainment or was there a more cultural/religious aspect to it as well?
A: I usually play soccer for entertainment. Playing soccer just makes me happy; I get to forget about all the problems I am having. Also I like the fact that I usually get to meet new people and have fun with friends or family.
Q: It seems like that is one of the biggest reasons people choose to play soccer, because it is a simple sport that brings so much joy. Soccer is much more popular around the world than it is in the United States. Why do you think that is?
A: I think the reason soccer is not popular in the United States is because of sports such as American football and baseball. These are two of the dominant sports in the US, and once the fans have the mental mind set, I feel like they don’t have as much interest in any other sport such as soccer.
Q: Recently, it seems that racism on the field has become more common. Why do you think that is?
A: Sports are something really special and also emotional to the players and fans. However, not all the team are diverse. Therefore, sometimes there are some stupid fans up there that would rather abuse players by saying racist comments just because of their skin color instead of judging them on their performance.
Q: Have you ever been the subject of racism while playing soccer?
A: Yes I have been the subject of racism in some soccer clubs; either because I spoke differently or cause I was the only black person on the team.
Q: How did you handle it? Were you angry or did you try and forget about it?
A: I personally believe the best way to deal with racism is to speak up for yourself because being silent won’t make it any better or talk to someone that can make a difference, such as the coach or referee.
Q: I think confronting the issue is the best way to deal with it as well. What suggestions would you have for diminishing the amount of racism in soccer?
A: My suggestion to get rid of racism is to have more diverse teams. This way, players would get to know each other better for who they really are, instead of the stereotypes they heard about each other. As the fans get to see that players are more accepting of each other, I think that there would be less racist comments during the games. People also need to speak up to make their voice heard. Like I said before, being silent won’t solve anything.