Japanese footballer Kyogo Furuhashi has been playing for Celtic since the start of this season and has made a fantastic start at the Scottish Premiership club. Ange Postecoglou, the Greek-Australian coach of Celtic, was a coach in Japan for several years and says he had a very nice time there: as a foreigner he was welcomed with open arms. He called it “utter sadness” what happened to a group of so-called Rangers fans last Sunday. A bus full of supporters of the club sang racist songs about Kyogo Furuhashi around a Rangers game, according to video footage that had come out. Now it happens more often that players of the opponent are treated racist. But in this case, Celtic played a long way from arch-rival Rangers. Nevertheless, a group of Rangers supporters found it necessary to chant racistly about the Japanese footballer, who was active elsewhere in Scotland at the time, during a bus trip organized by the fan club.
Unfortunately, this is nothing new in Europe – not much has changed in recent decades. Club owners and other football executives generally have a very passive attitude. They often hide behind comments that they don’t associate themselves with the behavior of people they’ve sold tickets to, nor can they do much about it. Rangers, on the other hand, responded with a measure that I have been advocating for years.
Technology nowadays offers the possibility to identify all kinds of things where this was previously impossible. The Scottish champion took immediate action and, along with the police, began an investigation using all technological means: video recordings from smartphones, own camera images from the stadium, television images and other means of obtaining information that could identify the culprits.
The outcome was very positive. All those involved who had behaved racially were banned indefinitely after identification by the club – they are no longer allowed to enter the stadiums. Rangers has thus taken a measure that is very sensitive to the supporters. The club chose to stand behind its own standards and values and not take the path of least resistance with statements such as “we do not support this type of behavior” and not take any further action. The Rangers have thus set a good example: a club at the highest level that takes responsibility for what happens in its own ‘ecosystem’.
If we want to eradicate such racist scenes, it is necessary that all clubs have a clear plan to combat this behaviour. As an extension of this, clubs in Europe should also draw up a clear plan to achieve more diversity in the different parts of a club – from directors to coaches and board members. This would speed up the process of eliminating outrageous actions like the one around Kyogo Furuhashi.
Clarence Seedorf is a former football player. Now he is an entrepreneur, philanthropist and guest speaker.