Gerald Asamoah, a former German national soccer player and Schalke veteran is seriously campaigning against racism. Asamoah writes about the incident in Duisburg, his experiences and what gives him hope.
It is not easy for me to start this text – because it is about racism . Again
Believe me, I don’t enjoy it. Really not. But even so, I won’t stop talking about it. Current occasion: Aaron Opoku from VfL Osnabrück was racially insulted at a third division game in Duisburg , he was insulted as a “monkey”, and there should have been monkey noises from the stands. So much in advance: Very, very many reacted in an exemplary manner this weekend – the fans, the teams, the clubs, the referees. The perpetrator was identified and reported. The game, a competitive game, was canceled. A historic moment in German professional football. And an extremely important one, because I have the feeling that the problem has finally been taken seriously.
Although he took his first professional steps for Hannover 96, Gerald Asamoah’s football career is closely linked to FC Schalke 04. The 43-year-old played for the team from Gelsenkirchen from 1999 to 2011 and from 2013 to 2015. Even afterwards, the father of three children remained loyal to the miners: in 2016 he became manager of the U23 and since September 2021 he has been responsible for the coordination and process optimization of the professional service center as head of license. In 2007 the 43-time German national player founded the “Gerald Asamoah Foundation for Children with Heart Disease” and supports several aid organizations. In addition, Asamoah is Unsesco ambassador for the program “Education for Children in Need” and is a school sponsor for the Germany-wide network “School without Racism – School with Courage”.
Gerald Asamoah experienced racism on the pitch: “disturbing memories”
But it doesn’t let go of me, these scenes hit me deeply, especially the topic of monkey sounds. I experienced it myself, for example at the end of the 1990s when I was thrown bananas from Hanover in Cottbus as a young player; when I heard these monkey noises too. Or in 2006, as a Schalke 04 player in Rostock, although shortly before that, as a German national player, I had experienced and represented the cosmopolitan “summer fairy tale” at the World Cup in Germany. To hear these sounds is the worst. They are disturbing memories.
Do you know how that feels? You’re just empty and numb and hurt. You feel lonely in your (black) skin in a painful way. I often hear from people who think they are progressive: “Oh, come on, don’t be like that.” But these are not just any insults. You are being devalued to an animal! To a monkey that is supposed to eat its bananas! Just because your skin color is different do these people deny you to be an equal person, to be a person at all! Think about it! The same goes for the N word. It stands for the centuries-long systematic oppression of people only because of their skin color. And because of that, it’s extremely humiliating. It is a pain that is difficult to describe and put into words.
All together against racism: A sign that gives hope
When I was a professional, hardly anyone showed solidarity with me. When I heard the monkey noises on the pitch, my coach asked if I wanted to keep playing. That’s what I wanted. I didn’t want to let these people win. But if, like this weekend, EVERYONE stops playing TOGETHER and openly opposes idiots who behave so inhumanely, regardless of whether the rules allow for that and without knowing what kind of sporting consequences this will have for the clubs, then that is it a big, a selfless mark. A sign that gives me hope.
Recently, it has often been discussed whether players are allowed to express themselves politically, for example when after the death of George Floyd in the USA some players in the Bundesliga went on their knees or showed Black Lives Matter messages. I think: It has nothing to do with politics – just with humanity.
January 2013: After 26 minutes in AC Milan’s friendly against Pro Patria, Kevin-Prince Boateng (3rd from right) had enough. The native of Berlin, then a national player of Ghana, leads his team from the field because he and his dark-skinned teammates are repeatedly racially mocked by opposing fans. The game is canceled. Boateng and his team receive recognition for their reaction.
It’s a very positive development: that more and more people open their mouths, take a clear position and aren’t afraid of conflicts. I wish we could continue like this. That we show moral courage, like now in Duisburg. That we don’t just carry some marketing campaigns and hashtags in front of us, but really want to change something together. This means that we also deal with the rather quiet and for many unpleasant structural racism in our society, that we question ourselves and not only talk about it when there are bad incidents. Because usually these are in the media for a few days and that was it. But the problems remain. We must therefore all ask ourselves: are we really doing enough to so that racism has no chance in our society? This is my wish for Christmas.
Are we all doing enough to change something together?
But I am positive too. As I said: a lot of people reacted very well in Duisburg. I know a lot of people – regardless of their skin color or origin – who are committed and try to fight racism and racist structures. I am grateful for that.
And to the others who think everything is “not that bad”, who want to keep using the N-word when they talk about a chocolate bun just because it “always has been like that”, or those who prefer to put an application aside, because the name sounds somehow “exotic” on it: Perhaps use the contemplative Christmas season to think about all this in peace. I don’t mean that reproachfully. Promised. But I would be happy.