Belgian footballer Dante Vanzer has to face dust in the United States after he made racist comments about an opponent last weekend. The US Soccer Federation and its club reacted harshly. Can Belgian clubs follow this example?
Dante Vanzier’s (24-year-old) American dream has already been shattered – for a while – about a month after his arrival. Our compatriot has to go through the dust after being accused of making racist remarks in the match against the San Jose Earthquakes.
The match was stopped for twenty minutes last Saturday, after Earthquakes striker Jeremy Ebobisse complained that Vanzier had insulted Cape Verdean Dutch footballer Jamiro Montero. “I know what I heard,” Ebobisi said after the match.
Vanzier was eventually taken off in the 86th minute. It became clear shortly after the match that they don’t laugh at such statements in the United States. This was followed by a statement from his coach Gerhard Stroop, who expressed his regret that Vanzier had not been taken off the field immediately after the incident. Major League Soccer (MLS) said it would begin an investigation immediately, and his club – the New York Red Bulls – said it would cooperate fully. This was followed by a statement from Vanzier himself, who indicated through his club that he would accept “any potential suspension or fine imposed by MLS and the club.”
It has now been announced that Vanzier will retire from the New York Red Bulls for an indefinite period. The football club responded to the incident on the same day. “We as a club attach great importance to this matter and informed Major League Soccer immediately. New York Red Bulls condemns any form of harassment or discrimination.
Dutch coach Ron Jans, who was still coaching the Standards, also testified that in the United States they do not take inappropriate language lightly. Jans found himself caught up in a storm when it emerged that, as coach of FC Cincinnati, he had been singing in the locker room to a song containing the N-word. Major League Soccer and his club launched an investigation, after which Jans himself decided to resign.
“In the United States, racism remains a very sensitive issue, dating back to the time of slavery,” says Dutch footballer Shergill MacDonald, who played in the Belgian and American leagues. Today he plays for KV Hoyket Regional Football Club. “This was actually the case when I was playing football there (In 2012-2013, J.L), but has received more attention since the Black Lives Matter movement.
BLM also created the Black Players For Change Association, which brought together more than 170 players and coaches for two years. Jeremy Ebobis of Seismology is also a member of that association. “Foreign players in particular sometimes have a tough time at first,” says MacDonald. “In other competitions, they are used to taunting their competitors, but in the United States, certain words or insults are much less acceptable.”
According to sports psychologist Jeff Browers, there is a more pronounced racist policy in sports in the United States. “There people realize that without strict and appropriate sanctions you cannot bring about change,” says Brouwers. “The law is the law, and no one can escape it. It seems to me that this is the only way to eliminate this problem.”
He cites Italy as a counterexample of what not to do. There, Romelu Lukaku was recently subjected to jungle noises and other racist chants during a cup match against Juventus while taking the decisive penalty kick. After scoring a penalty kick, he traditionally celebrated by putting his finger to his mouth. The referee thought he was provoking the fans and sent him off the field with a second yellow card. The disciplinary committee also did not take into account the racist chants: Lukaku received a ban from the match, which was condemned by many players around the world.
There is still a long way to go in our country. A former professional footballer from the Belgian league testifies how racist comments on the field have been common for a long time. “Certainly at the beginning of the century, when there were fewer foreign players, the referee rarely intervened. Today this is less accepted among players, but that does not mean that it no longer exists.”
Paul Belloy, a former player for KV Mechelen, Beerschot and Lierse of Congolese origin, believes that Belgian clubs can follow America’s example. “It is observed that they reprimand or punish their players for making racist statements. In Belgium, clubs protect their players in order to receive lighter punishments. This sends the wrong signal, especially to the fans.”
The Professional League has recently launched several campaigns against discrimination and racism. It has also been working with Dossin Barracks for this purpose since last year. Union Football Club – with Dante Vanzer – among others, visited the Mechelen Museum last year. “How many more people will we send to Dussin?” Belloy wonders. “Only clear rules will help. Because in all the years I’ve been working on this, I’ve seen it get worse.
Updated April 11, 10:19 p.m.: Information has been added to the article about the recent announcement that Vanzier will retire indefinitely from the New York Red Bulls.
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