Instead of celebrating Schalke’s DFB Pokal victory over Hertha Berlin on Tuesday, we’re left grappling with the pervasiveness of racism in football and futile efforts to combat racist abuse within stadiums.
Hertha Berlin captain Niklas Stark told reporters that he heard racist insults and monkey chants directed at fellow defender Jordan Torunarigha at the Veltins Arena during a DFB Pokal match against Schalke.
Torunarigha was visibly distressed throughout the match, and we’re left wondering if the officials could have done a better job of helping Torunarigha through this traumatizing experience. We’ve seen so many instances of Black players being subject to racist abuse in arenas by fans with no stoppages or repercussions to the offending parties.
Worse yet, the racist chants may have played a role in Schalke’s victory. Because Torunarigha was red-carded in the 100th minute. Schalke went on to win the game 3-2 after forward Benito Raman scored in the 115th minute from the bench. Hertha manager Jürgen Klinsmann believes that Torunarigha should not have been sent off and the refs should have considered what he was dealing with. It would be unfair to disagree with him.
Schalke were down 2-0 until two late goals from Daniel Caligiuri and the always-clutch Amine Harit, who forced extra time with his calm 82nd-minute strike. But instead of celebrating an incredible comeback victory that keeps the Royal Blues’ hopes of a DFB Pokal trophy alive, we are left discussing another instance of racism making the beautiful game feel less than beautiful. And above all else, less safe.
For their part, Schalke have made a strong statement against these bigoted fans:
"“There is no tolerance from the club for behaviour like this.“We will do everything to trace those responsible for this and to ensure they face the consequences.”“Behaviour like this does not just go against FC Schalke 04’s stadium regulations, mission statement and statutes, but also contradicts all of our values.”"
Sporting director Jochen Schneider’s were even stronger, and he, importantly, said he apologized to Torunarigha after the match:
"“There is zero tolerance. I lack any understanding for complete idiots of this kind.”"
This summer, Schalke president Clemens Tönnies made racist remarks, so it is especially important for the club to make a serious response against this abuse.
Hopefully, the club can follow through on its strong statements with action against the abusers, assuming they can ascertain their identities.
It’s awful that Torunarigha had to go through this. Those racist fans have reflected poorly on Schalke as a fan base, on German football, and on our society as a whole. Racism has always been a major issue embedded in society – football included – and we’re still lacking in our response to stopping it from taking hold. As Torunarigha’s red card and Hertha’s loss shows, it can greatly affect people in the short-term and long-term. We cannot let racism win.