Mainz 05 and Nigeria defender Leon Balogun believes fans who make racist calls and sounds at footballers should be banned from football grounds for life.
Balogun and his Nigerian team mate Anthony Ujah were subjected to racial taunts as they warmed up during their Bundesliga league match at Hannover 96 at the weekend. “Normally as visiting players you get insulted as you warm up during matches” Balogun says.
“Initially Anthony was getting the brunt of it all but he was strong and brave enough to just be smiling at the insults they were hurling in our direction”. Balogun felt the fans crossed the line soon after “they started making monkey noises at us. I lost it and confronted this particular group who were the most vocal of the Hannover fans. Our fitness trainer heard it and the other players doing stretches too heard the noises”.
For Balogun what made the situation even more compelling was the presence of a young boy with those few vocal Hannover fans. “That little boy saw me in an argument with this man and started making the same monkey noises that he had heard the older men make earlier. That is quite sad actually.”
There seems to be a feeling that football is returning to the dark ages when people of colour were insulted all over Europe. “To be fair this is the first time I am experiencing something like this. My friend Kevin (Prince-Boateng) has had bad experiences in Italy previously but I haven’t until this.”
How would you suggest things like this are handled by the authorities? “The fans recorded doing this should be banned from stadiums for life. Undercover stewards should be encouraged to record their actions on their phones and when investigations are concluded then they should be banned”
Are racial incidents common in the Bundesliga? “I won’t say they are. To be very clear, It was just those 4 or 5 men in that area where we were warming up – I played for Hannover and I know the club well.”
There have been suggestions that Balogun and Ujah might have mistaken the chant the home fans have for Ihlas Bebou but Balogun is very clear “those 4 or 5 men were very close to us and we heard them very clearly in any case, the Bebou chant is done by many; what we heard was from the people really close to us. I am not mistaken”.