"Racism comes from people who can’t recognise that there is only one real race – the human race."
Image from Chelsea FC
We spoke to Chelsea's Florent Malouda on 17th October about his experiences of racism. He shared an important message of respect and tolerance and discussed the harmful impact of racism. This interview will form part of our new anti-racism film.
Did you ever come across racism when you were growing up?
Not really - I was born in French Guiana, where we are used to a difference in cultures and I really didn’t suffer from racism when I was young.
Have you ever experienced or witnessed racism in football?
I would say, in football, racism does exist sometimes in crowds. I really think it is just a way for certain fans to try to get a player out of his game and force him to make a mistake more than anything. It does exist and I can say it does affect the players personally.
How does it make you feel when you hear a racist comment from the crowd?
I think it is really difficult to stay calm when you suffer from racism, especially in a place like a stadium where you should come to enjoy yourself and not to abuse players or anyone. You have to stay focussed on the game, so I think the best answer is to ignore them and, if it does happen, just respond with a smile. I think that is the best answer because you are showing people that you are happy and successful in what you are doing.
What advice would you give to a young person who is suffering from racism?
First of all I would say to never lose confidence in yourself, because when you suffer from racism you can have doubts in yourself and think that you aren’t worth what another person is. You must always keep your confidence and to learn how you will grow up later on, so you need knowledge and education. I would say the most important thing would be to keep your confidence high.
What would you say to someone who is being racist to someone else?
I don’t know if you can give advice; those people need to educate themselves and need to learn more about life because I think that most of the people who do that are scared of something. They think the other person represents a danger, which is wrong and they need to learn that it is wrong.
I think the opposite side is that you need to learn tolerance because you can receive a lot from the people you are abusing in a racist way. You need to see the other person as a chance, not as a danger.
What would your message be for tolerance for people of different cultures, countries or religions that you have experienced through football?
I would say football, or sport in general, is a perfect example of how different people from different origins, religions or cultures can be together. If you look inside a dressing room, you have people from all over the globe sometimes with different languages, but because we play football we all think the same way and there is no difference. We all play under one shirt and we all feel like we are one and, for me, that is the same as the human race.
Racism comes from people who don’t know the real origin of the human race and can’t recognise that there is only one real race – the human one.
You came here from France and French Guiana. How does it feel coming to a new country on your own?
I would say that when you arrive in a new country you must learn. I remember when I first arrived I wanted to learn because you become richer if you take all the positive aspects of a new culture or country. So you want to learn the language, you want to learn the habits of your new country and it is also an exchange because right now we live in a global world.
You cannot go to a new country and say, “I want you all to be like my original country”, so you pick things up from many different countries all over the world and you become a new person. Ever since I was young I really wanted to travel, to meet people and I feel very privileged to get the chance to, especially here in London where you are connected to the world and different communities and everybody living together, so that has been a great opportunity in my life.
Can you tell us about your charity One Love Foundation?
When I created my foundation the objective was to use my experiences and what I learned going from South America to France and from France to England. This experience has given me a lot in my personal life and when I went back to Guiana, the children and young generation were asking me how I got to where I am now.
I wanted to share my experience and I wanted to give back to the community, so I created the foundation to teach youngsters the right way to become adults and to use the contacts I have made to help them with local projects to help them advance and to really make a difference to their lives.
I realised that right now, as a professional footballer, you must be a good role model to those who are younger and following you.
Have your experiences coming from South America to Europe had ups and downs?
Yes, of course; I remember I was 15 when I came to France by myself – my family are still in South America. It was not really easy sometimes, you had to think for yourself and solve all your problems by yourself, which is a difficult experience when you are only 15.
At the same time, it was a wonderful opportunity to become a man because you make mistakes, but you then learn from those mistakes. That is why I created the foundation, to use my personal experiences and to share them with those who want to follow in my footsteps.
Which living person do you most admire and why?
I would say Nelson Mandela because of what he has done in his life. It was not an easy road for him but what he achieved, the person he is now and the respect he receives form people all over the globe is amazing. He is a perfect example of a difficult life where you have to struggle and fight for your most basic rights. After everything he went through, to then become the president and leader of his country is something that inspires me.
I have read a lot of books about his life and I remember at the last World Cup in South Africa I wanted to have the chance to meet him, but everybody that went to South Africa wanted to meet him so it was impossible.
What do you think of the Show Racism the Red Card campaign and are there any other messages you would like to give to anybody reading this?
There are many aspects and when people speak about racism they only think about one thing, which is racist abuse. There are different ways to treat the problem and I think that it is a good idea to keep in touch with schools and the young generation, because they are the future and the ones who will change mentalities.
It is a good concept and I am very proud to be a part of it now – that is why I accepted the invitation. I think you guys are doing a great job!
The only message I have would be to agree with what the charity is doing and hope that the young people who are seeing the work can apply what they see in their everyday lives. Every day you think about racism and think, "the next time I will react differently" but when the situation happens it is then you have to react and think about all the things you have learnt.
It is not easy on an everyday basis but I think you will become a stronger and better person if you have a good reaction to it when it happens.
Ged Grebby, Chief Executive for Show Racism the Red Card said:
"I would like to thank Florent Malouda for this interview and to the staff at Chelsea FC for their support. This interview took place prior to the high profile alleged racist abuse from John Terry towards Anton Ferdinand. Show Racism the Red Card welcomes the FA's investigation into this incident. As an organisation, we remain committed to tackling racism in society through education, using the role model status of footballers.
"Florent has communicated such a powerful anti-racism message - he and other supporters of our campaign are fantastic ambassadors for young people."