Some say show racism the red card, well I like to say show racism it can’t faze you and keep it moving. This is what I had to do last week during our Europa tie against PAOK Salonika in Greece. Coming to the stadium from our hotel was a very long drive. I was running through the game in my head like I do before every game. I gave a little thought to the fact that I was playing in a country where I may face a bit of racism. It’s not something I like to worry about, even though it’s likely to happen.
As we warmed up I could see the crowd slowly building up to what turned out to be around 20,000 PAOK fans. What a great atmosphere it was! I was on the bench to start with and I was chomping at the bit just to get on the pitch to do my thing.
So anyway, as the game kicked off, I took my seat on the bench and watched as PAOK started off brightly without really hurting us. It must have been after 20 minutes when I felt like taking a pee, so I got up and made my way to the changing room. I had to go down some steps to get there and a portion of the PAOK fans sit directly in front of these steps. I expected to get a bit of flack off them but I did not expect one of them to shout out ‘ NIGGA ‘! To which my reply was a thumbs up and a smile, while making my way down the stairs to the toilet. This prompted a loud roar from the fans who were sitting there.
As I was in the changing room, I noticed a bunch of bananas sitting on the side. I thought I would take one out with me to show these fans how much of a NIGGA I really am. Damn ignorant people. Rather than reacting to their negative energy which could have caused real uproar, I converted it into a complete mockery!
So as I came back up the stairs, I had the banana in my mouth, swinging it so they could all see. I knew this would show them that I couldn’t care less what they called me because I was more than aware and proud of what colour I am. They all reacted exactly how I predicted. With a big cheer. Heeeeeeey! I just laughed and raised the banana to which made them laugh and cheer even louder. Now this was not jeering or them hurling abuse, it was people laughing at what I had done to their malicious gesture.
Anyway as the half came to an end I got up to warm up and I took the banana with me just to show them once more, that I wouldn’t let their small-minded action have a negative effect on me. I would just deflect it back on them, very subtly.
Before I stepped on the pitch to warm up at halftime, I turned to them with the banana in hand and I held it up as if it were a Olympic torch. They roared with laughter. I then threw it on the bench and went to warm up. They could not take their eyes of me at this point, cheering every time I touched the ball. It was funny how this so called NIGGA had now got their full attention and I was not even playing. I had now converted them into in my role as an entertainer. Using my humorous tactic and making them laugh, silenced them so they wouldn’t even think to say a word about my skin colour for the rest of the game.
Anyway, the second half started and then finished in a 2-1 win for PAOK. I thought we should have got a draw but we did not finish off our chances.
As the final whistle went and the players headed down the stairs back to the changing room, the fans who I had the encounter with, all rushed to the fence stretching out their hands screaming for my shirt and for a touch of my hands. I could only smile and laugh at how I had transformed them. Without too much hesitation I told them to f**k off…..naaaa I’m only joking. I would never do that. Instead I reached out and gave at least a dozen of them a high five which led to even more fans coming forward. I couldn’t give them my shirt because it wasn’t that kind of party but I did give them a nice little lesson.
If any of you reading this get confronted in a similar situation with racism, find a way to manipulate it. Obviously if you are outnumbered by a gang, it’s better to get your Usain Bolt on and zzzing. But when it’s just people making remarks like those I faced last week, just smile and give them the thumbs up to show that you have no problem being the NIGGA or whatever race you may be.
Show racism it won’t faze you!