Former Bafana Bafana striker Shaun Bartlett believes African players will become more reluctant to sign for European clubs unless something is done about racism on that continent.
The issue is squarely in the spotlight again following Sulley Muntari’s Serie A ban for standing up against racist abuse earlier this month.
The Ghanaian veteran left the field in stoppage time during the Serie A meeting between Pescara and Cagliari due to the verbal abuse he received throughout the game.
Instead, the 32-year-old was shown a yellow card for “leaving the field without permission” and handed a one-match suspension.
Bartlett, who played 74 internationals and netted 28 times, says things can’t go on like this.
“As an African player, you’re constantly going to consider that (the potential for racism) when a club approaches you,” he told CTGN Africa this week.
“You start asking ‘Is it really worth it to go there?’. It’s not necessarily a question of money but rather being uncomfortable and being put in situations you don’t want to be in.”
Bartlett, who turned out 77 times for Switzerland’s FC Zurich and a meaty 123 times for Charlton Athletic in the English Premiership, is actually flabbergasted that racism remains such a big problem.
“For these things to still happen is very sad. It shouldn’t be in the game,” he said.
“We keep talking about Fair Play in terms of respect for officials and opponents. But racism touches a lot more people.”
Eradicating the problem completely is probably unrealistic but there are certain initiatives that are proving effective.
Bartlett cites England’s Kick It Out campaign, an organisation that provides support and runs educational programmes to combat racism in professional football.
“When I played in the UK, I was very privileged to be a part of the Kick It Out organisation,” he said.
“They put a lot of emphasis on curbing racism in football and work closely with the FA. It’s a model Fifa should consider.”