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Black German footballers speak out on racism

June 5, 2020

A week of protest in the US has sparked worldwide support for the Black Lives Matter movement. In interviews with DW, three black German footballers speak about how they feel about racism. Here is what they told us.

A photo showing Jerome Boateng, Nicole Anyomi and Leroy Kwadwo

Nicole Anyomi (20), striker, SGS Essen

I think it's simply terrifying. George Floyd, rest in peace. I'm lost for words. We are in 2020 and racism and injustice still prevails. I don't understand it. How is it possible that something like this still happens today?

How often do we need to raise our voice and say something? I just don't understand it. As Antonio Rüdiger [of the German national team — Editor's note] said, nothing happens. It's time for action and not just talk. Racism here, racism there but something has to happen to make it stop. I could cry. I'm speechless.

Why at a football game, in a sport that connects people and brings people from different nations together, do some people have to make monkey noises and discriminate against players? I felt so sorry for him [Hertha Berlin's Jordan Torunarigha] because he was alone in that moment.

Of course, you have your teammates around you telling you to carry on or not listen to it but it's difficult when you're in that situation and you have been discriminated against. You're alone, you don't know what to do. The feeling is indescribable.

Nicole Anyomi kneels on the soccer pitch
Nicole Anyomi takes a knee after scoring for Essen in a recent cup game against PotsdamImage: Imago Images//M. Koch

In Germany the good thing is that something is being done against it but … it's just not enough for the captain to read something before the game or banners or adverts with the words 'Say No to Racism.' It's not enough anymore. It's too little.

We have to be active and raise our voice and speak out. If something happens you can't just stand by, look on and say nothing. Of course some people have never experienced it before and are shocked and freeze up, but some just stand there or walk on even though they've seen something and could have acted. That's just not right.

I spoke to one or two players about it because it has come to the fore more often in recent weeks and they see it the same way I do. They find it terrifying that racism still exists ... We don't know exactly what is happening in America but you can see it in the news and in the photos.

Of course, they ask me how I'm doing. Well, how am I supposed to be doing?

Leroy Kwadwo warming up ahead of kickoff against Hansa Rostock earlier this season
Leroy Kwadwo warming up ahead of kickoff against Hansa Rostock earlier this seasonImage: picture-alliance/dpa/Fotostand

Leroy Kwadwo (23), defender, Würzburger Kickers

I am horrified. You can see how much of a movement it has become and how current the issue of racism is — not in the past but in the present.

In my case, a few months ago, it happened in the stadium and it wasn't an isolated case. It's common that players of a different skin color or another religion are insulted and it's not publicized afterwards. In day-to-day life, I notice it less but there are situations where you get looked at funny because of the color of your skin.

Personally, I think the issue has continually been brushed under the carpet. Slowly, I think people around the world are realizing that they have to speak out against racism. At the moment, you can see that a majority of people are engaged with the issue, that it's important to them. Now is the time to push on and say: This isn't acceptable.

Jerome Boateng kicks the ball
Jerome Boateng in action for Bayern Munich earlier this seasonImage: picture-alliance/dpa/T. Weller

Jerome Boateng (31), defender, Bayern Munich

Of course racism is a topic here as well, it's very present. In recent years, we've seen attacks on foreigners and different religious groups in Germany. All in all, things are traveling in a certain direction where I think: we were once further along.

During my childhood in Berlin, I also had experiences with racism, of course. But I also remember my time on the football pitch, where it didn't matter where you came from or what religion you were. We were Iranians, Africans, Turks, Germans. We didn't really think or talk about it. It was all about being together.

Initiatives like Black Out Tuesday are all well and good but what we really need is to really get stuck in and do something, be that working with children or supporting other integration projects. Everybody can help.

Everything begins with the education of children. That's the most important thing. No child in this world is born a racist. It's up to the parents and what they tell their children.

Read more in DW's exclusive interview with Boateng: 'No child is born a racist'