People like to look at sports as a beacon of hope in a world that feels hopeless. But I tend to see athletes as belonging to another world entirely. The same English fans cheering on Sterling at the World Cup are perhaps the same ones who voted for Brexit in 2016. Lukaku is now adored in Belgium, where he was born 25 years ago. But it wasn’t that long ago that he would come on the field as a youth player and be confronted by the parents of the opposing side, demanding to see his ID.
As Europe faces an identity crisis, it needs to accept the fact that there are countless Lukakus and Sterlings among us, contributing to every level of society. Embracing immigrants for three weeks when the World Cup comes knocking every four years is just not good enough.
One thing I know for sure about being a fan is this: it is not a vicarious pleasure, despite all appearances to the contrary, and those who say that they would rather do than watch are missing the point.... When there is some kind of triumph, the pleasure does not radiate from the players outwards until it reaches the likes of us at the back of the terraces in a pale and diminished form; our fun is not a watery version of the team's fun ... The joy we feel on occasions like this is not a celebration of others' good fortune, but a celebration of our own; and when there is a disastrous defeat the sorrow that engulfs us is, in effect, self-pity, and anyone who wishes to understand how football is consumed must realise this above all things.
--Nick Hornby, Fever Pitch
From 2012, inspired by watching David Silva on Telemundo today:
And what if Silva said it was ok to call him “El Chino”? Would it make the nickname more acceptable?
I contend that even if Silva is “ok” with being called “El Chino” it is still not suitable for a soccer federation and its announcers to continue to call him “El Chino”, particularly if they are trying to build anti-racist campaigns. For one, Silva is not Chinese. He is not even of Chinese descent. Calling Silva “El Chino” continues to perpetuate the racial ideology in Spain and Latin America and among Latinos in the U.S. that it is appropriate for us to continue to call Asians “Chinos” simply because it is easier.
Secondly, we don’t call white soccer players “El Blanco” and we do not overtly call Black soccer players “El Negro” (I say overtly because words like “Negro” are still being hurled at players in private). Why is this acceptable to do to players of Asian descent?
Finally, this example points to the well-rehearsed perspective that is commonly attributed to people of Asian descent, particularly those in the US — that of the “passive” Asian. By saying, on Silva’s behalf no less, that it is “just a nickname” we take it upon ourselves to speak for a whole race of people. It denies the vast impact that racism has on its soccer players of color. By us ignoring this “one incident” we deny the opportunity for referees and soccer announcers to learn about the different ways racism manifests; the ways that racism differentially and differently impact people of color.