World Cup winner Lilian Thuram has urged the authorities to tackle racist abuse directed at the players playing in stadiums across Europe.
While the tactics of Ronaldo and Messi have long been celebrated by European football, Thuram has called for something more to be done following racist chants aimed at Cyril Riera when the Borussia Dortmund forward played for Valencia in Spain’s La Liga last season.
Thuram told The Guardian: “It will never go away unless we condemn it and put measures in place. You have to take the racists out of stadiums – there are rules in place, referees are watching them and if they don’t stop the game for the abuse, it’s a red card.”
The former France and Juventus defender, one of three players at that 1990 World Cup to be black, has also spoken out against the game’s racism and its influence on some clubs and fans.
Thuram added: “The way football affects the psyche of the fans is very important because at certain times players’ decisions are dictated by the fans’ reaction.
“You can’t stand there with an English player who scores a goal, with a South American, say in Spanish, and when the goal comes in, the whole stadium boos and gives a lot of abuse.
“So for a player, especially a South American one, who’s never heard the colour of the skin, it’s difficult. If I’m sitting and the whole stadium goes mad and doesn’t care what happens to me on the pitch, it’s a very difficult thing to take.”
Thuram’s central defender partner in midfield at the World Cup, Marcel Desailly, believes there are reasons for some fans to abuse players of other nationalities.
He said: “You never understand the first-name-ends-with-Racism. But you can say that sometimes fans can buy the tickets to see more than just football – but I think that is coming out from the coaches now.
“If you look at the way your team is performing, what have they done? You can sometimes still make the fans crazy. With Portuguese players, from the first game they were a bit nervous. All the players – not only the Portuguese – know that. They know that you have to believe in the game, not in what goes on.”
Both Desailly and Thuram have been talking to the Manchester United team about their youth in France, in the years when they were with the club’s B team.
Thuram said: “Every coach should take [the players on tour] and show them something from the past. But maybe not the year of 1986 – that’s a bit too old. What can you do to look back?”