So far in his Liverpool career, Georginio Wijnaldum has been known more for his abundant quality on the pitch than anything else off of it. And his personality, at least from the outside, has always appeared to be beaming with positivity, with a thousand-watt smile to match.
However, in the last couple of weeks, Gini has made very public statements (on and off the pitch) about the recent (or rather “on going”) spats of racism in football stadiums across Europe. Perhaps, at 29-years-old, Gini feels more confident in his ability to speak up. Or perhaps, his beaming smile only conceals how sick and fucking tired he is of this shit (same, Gini, same).
Regardless of the reasons he has chosen to speak out about racism in football, he has, and he has decided to do so through one of the biggest media outlets in the world: CNN.
First and foremost, Gini had some questions to ask, rhetorically, for everyone to think about.
“Why should I play in that case?” Gini responded to CNN, “I think everyone should do it [walk off]. I think that’s the way you support another person, because why should you go on? If you play on, it will never stop. Who defends the players? You basically defend other people because you want the game to go on.”
Of course, the topic of Mario Balotelli’s recent attempt to walk off the pitch was raised; Gini was not too pleased with Mario’s Italian teammates.
“It frustrates me a lot to see that because you don’t know what he’s feeling. Why don’t you support him and just walk with him from the pitch?
“They don’t feel the pain like the person who gets racial abuse.”
Gini did not talk about his own experiences of being racially abused on a football pitch. I hope he never has to. But if the time comes, hopefully captain Jordan Henderson, and Gini’s other white teammates, will be more supportive than Balotelli’s.
Speaking out on this subject should help make Wijnaldum’s white teammates—both at Liverpool and for Holland—aware of how the wrong decision, in the wrong moment, can not only alienate the player being racially abused, but all people of color. Moreover, by allowing the game to continue, they become tacit supporters of this kind of abuse.
“A lot of people don’t understand the kind of pain you feel as a black player if you get abused. I felt it a lot, even what happened with the player of Excelsior. Even I felt it and I was sitting in my room at a hotel, so can you imagine how much pain there is for the player who really feels that problem?”
When asked if UEFA should have more black representatives, especially on the disciplinary committee, Gini agreed that this obvious solution would help. Obviously. Though he also thought that white people could solve the problem—together—so long as the will is there.
“It might be good if a black person or a few black people are in the position because they know how it feels when you get abused. I think also that white people can solve this problem, everyone can solve this problem. If we work together and take it seriously, then we can solve it.”
Unfortunately, UEFA continually disappoints on this issue, as do the various national football associations around Europe. Until strong punishments start being dished out, routinely and consistently, this will continue being a problem.
For now, the best way we can support black players—on our squad and beyond—is by not engaging in racist behavior, and by calling out those—especially within our fanbase—who do. And, if our players ever decide to walk off the pitch after racial abuse, we need to support their decision, fully.
“A lot of people don’t understand the kind of pain you feel as a black player if you get abused"— CNN Football (@CNNFC) November 26, 2019
In this exclusive CNN Sport interview, Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum says he would walk off the pitch if he experienced racist abuse, even if it was in a major final. pic.twitter.com/zzbe9NjvCD