Super Eagles player, and son of a Nigerian father and German mother has described his experience with racism while residing in Germany.
Super Eagles defender Leon Balogun has called for racism action after seeing his dream year scarred. The 30-year-old Brighton defender, made childhood wishes come true by playing in the World Cup for Nigeria and then following idol Thierry Henry into the Premier League.
But earlier in 2018 the kind of bigotry he sometimes experienced while growing up in Germany reared its ugly head when he was playing for Mainz.
Balogun, son of a Nigerian father and German mother, said: “It was at Hannover, my first club as a professional. “During the second half, we warmed up just in front of their ultras stand. I was there with team-mate Anthony Ujah, who is also Nigerian and has really dark skin.
“They started to do monkey noises. I’m a person that likes to speak up and I was like, ‘Yo, shut it — you only feel strong now because you are behind there and surrounded by people’.
“I was just angry. Our fitness coach was standing next to us and saying, ‘Leon, what’s up? Calm down, calm down! Don’t give them your attention’.
“There were children surrounded by six to 12 people who did those chants, ‘Oo, oo, oo’. I was like, ‘In Germany? Seriously?’. They had black players in their team.
“My friend Ujah was attacked, I stood up for him then they went for me as well.
“The Hannover fans went at me on social media. They thought I was stupid enough to believe those chants were for their Togo striker called Bebou.
“Whenever he touches the ball, because they love him, the whole stadium was ‘Bou-bou-bou’ or ‘Bebou, Bebou’. “They thought I was mistaken about it.”
But Balogun knew racism when he saw and heard it after some incidents while he was growing up in Berlin.
One instance which still stands out for him is the treatment he received from an opposition striker in an under-16s match.
Balogun said: “At half-time we were walking towards the dressing room, I was about ten yards away and he tried to hit me with the ball. “He insulted me all through the game, using those typical swear words. The N-word? Exactly.”
Balogun says strong action is important, but defeating racism requires ongoing commitment and education.
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