Our league is not spared from racism
I try my best to ignore it and get on with the game. However, experiencing it in a sport, I’ve known my whole life, and a sport I love and played with so many races and people all around the world was a sad moment in my career.
WATCHING hatred and racism can be painful for some. Imagine those at the receiving end of it.
On March 9, Penang played Selangor United in the Premier League and its striker Ndumba Makeche was making his first-team appearance after an injury he sustained at the start of the season.
It is never easy for a player to immediately acclimatise to the pitch after an injury, but some Penang fans certainly felt he was out of his depth.
"Selangor United took the lead, and few groups of fans started making monkey noises towards me," said Makeche.
"After that incident, I wanted to walk off especially when it’s the club you play for! I addressed this to the people above, but no action was taken."
Penang ended up winning the game, but Makeche was certainly scarred from that incident. It wasn’t the first time for him.
"I’ve experienced incidents on racism three times during my five years stint in Malaysia. First one was in Johor when Felda United played in the 2012 Malaysia cup semi-finals in Larkin.
"We had to stop warming up because of prayers, so Zah Rahan (Krangar) and I were warming up on the sidelines, and we heard a few fans yelling like monkeys but my former teammate Zah Rahan just laughed it off.
I’ve been called nig*g@, Hitam (black), and m0+herf()c*r. I have some videos of these fans saying those words.
"Second time was a friendly game against Perlis this year. We were defending a corner, and I had to stay up front on the line close to the fans, and I heard monkey noises directed at me! That was disappointing because I played for that club before.
"I try my best to ignore it and get on with the game. However, experiencing it in a sport, I’ve known my whole life, and a sport I love and played with so many races and people all around the world was a sad moment in my career."
He is not the only to suffer racism.
Malaysia and Pahang winger Mohamadou Sumareh said he experienced a few incidents since he started his professional career in Malaysia.
Not just the fans but even opposition players try to get into his inside by inciting racist slurs or statements.
"I’ve been called nig*g@ (nigga), Hitam (black), and m0+herf()c*r (motherfucker). I have some videos of these fans saying those words.
"In the past, I would react badly to it. When the fans know I am bothered by it, they continue with the slurs. Now I’ve learnt how to ignore it.
"Last year, I remembered fans from Melaka being vile. Other fans would boo at me, but Melaka fans would have a real go at me with their racist chants. They have no chill at all."
If you play your game and do your best, the fans and players will stop their verbal abuse. Also, coach Dollah (Salleh) is always motivating me, and when he knows that I’m about to lose it, he will say Mooooo.
For Sumareh, he has watched videos of African descent players being racially abused, but living in Malaysia, he did not expect to abused by the fans and players.
"My Pahang teammate Dickson (Nwakaeme) taught me a lot about handling these abuses. It doesn’t get to me at all these days because if you react, they will continue.
"If you play your game and do your best, the fans and players will stop their verbal abuse. Also, coach Dollah (Salleh) is always motivating me, and when he knows that I’m about to lose it, he will say Mooooo.
"I remembered facing one player, who constantly berated me with racist slurs. I wanted to go crazy at him because he went too far.
"Instead, after the game, I spoke to him and told him that he is a good player and has a good future. I just told him to play the football that he is playing. He repented and immediately apologised.
"Now he is not abusing players on the pitch."
Meanwhile, Petaling Jaya City midfielder Bae Beom-geun said that racism is not only an issue in world football but it is a social issue.
"It is hard to get it right immediately. It is an issue that requires lots of time with effort and lots of time,” said the South Korean.
"As most players believe that, by playing well in front of their supporters, they can get high recognition by the fans as well as they feel that it can change the perceptions of racism.
I know the bodies have put a pledge to end it. Yes, they are trying, and I know they are working very hard to eradicate racism, but at the end of the day, it is going to be difficult because there will be some other forces that won’t be happy when it comes to Blacks having a comfortable life or doing something with their talent.
"Therefore, football associations and other organisations should individually work hard to change the perception of racism."
PKNS striker Kpah Sherman painted another picture on racism by saying that authorities are trying their best to put an end to it, but it will continue.
"I know the bodies have put a pledge to end it. Yes, they are trying, and I know they are working very hard to eradicate racism, but at the end of the day, it is going to be difficult because there will be some other forces that won’t be happy when it comes to Blacks having a comfortable life or doing something with their talent.
"Above all, we all have to play for our families and friends. Make our bosses happy. That’s important. Once you play and be honest, you will get loved by fans."
I think the majority of the fans are good in Malaysia. It’s just that 20% ignorant fans that spoil the beautiful game.
Both Makeche and Sumareh said that racism in Malaysia is not worst compared to other European countries, but a certain few in the country are certainly putting a stain on Malaysian football.
"I think the majority of the fans are good in Malaysia. It’s just that 20% ignorant fans that spoil the beautiful game," said Makeche.
"When I posted on my Instagram story about my sadness about being racially abused, my Penang teammate Stuart (Wark) reposted it and showed support which I appreciated and a few Penang fan pages showed support too which is good because it’s just a small majority of the fans that racially abuse players, unfortunately."
"Malaysia is not close to being bad. When it gets bad, then something has to be done, but I don’t see it going bad at the moment," said Sumareh.
"It is better to stop it now rather than wait for it to escalate. Education and exposure are needed for people who spew racist statements.
"For some, racist statements are a joke, but they do not know how sensitive it is to us. Those spewing racist statements are humans too. I am sure there is a good side in them and through education and exposure, we can bring that out."
Sumareh said that if it continues, authorities especially Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) should fine teams instead of deducting points.
"Why deduct points when it is just the antics of few. A fine would be a good lesson. Also, campaigns and constant awareness is needed to educate people that racism is a no-no!"
As for Makeche, he believes that Racism will always exist and the only thing that can be done is educating people.
"Lack of education and knowledge are the prime cause for racism. Authorities should ban people that racially abuse players and also encourage the fans besides to take pictures of the people and report them.
Why deduct points when it is just the antics of few. A fine would be a good lesson. Also, campaigns and constant awareness is needed to educate people that racism is a no-no!
"Racism will always exist, unfortunately! The only way is to try to reduce from happening as much as possible and educating people that we are all one human race and should spread love not hate."
WHAT OTHER PLAYERS SAY...
Petaling Jaya City's South Korean midfielder Bae Beom-geun
"When someone calls me "Kimchi", I take it positively. Maybe, 'they are just interested in me' or 'they know about my country'. I've accepted it after living in foreign countries for a long time."
Perak's Malaysian winger J. Parthiban
"In Terengganu, some of the fans called me 'K#$5ng', 'Hitam', and India. It riles me up, but I cannot do anything because it is hard to ascertain who said it. On the pitch, some players playfully call me 'Hitam' and 'India'. They have also called me 'K#$5ng', and that riles me up. I will tell them that it is a derogatory term. I have spoken to many players on the severity of that word, and they repent afterwards."
Former Kedah and Armed Forces striker Marlon James
"People have called me 'black' before. I can't recall what year it was when I played against Kelantan – three fans started calling me Hitam (black). They thought I didn't know what it meant and when I looked at them, the other fans apologised for their antics. Four years ago, when I played a pre-season game in Perak, I was called monyet (monkey) by some of the fans. I confronted them, but my teammates calmed me down. I told the match referee about it, but he just told me to play on."
Terengganu's Ivorian striker Kipre Tchetche
"Last year, fans in Melaka and Perak called me negro, but I just laughed at them. Why I laugh? It's because I am showing them that a black guy is doing good in this country. I never had problems with my peers and opponents because they respect me as a player, but it's the fans that stain the game. I wish the authorities could find a way to stop these people from entering stadiums."
Felda United's Brazilian centreback Thiago Junio Aquino
"When things do not go your way, you tend to shout things and say racist things without even thinking. It is not good for football. Why do people call the players monkey? Matches can be emotional, but fans need to take a deep breath and think wisely."
PKNS's Malaysian midfielder Akram Mahinan
"Racist statements do bother us, but as professionals, we cannot let it get to us. People will say whatever they want, but we have to get on with our jobs. It is unsavoury, but I do not want to be down about it. There will be racist people everywhere. We have to be strong when facing them. I have been called many things, and I do not wish to share them because it is just bad."