Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba has opened up on his own personal experiences of racism in football, with “ignorance” among supporters still prevalent in the modern game.
The World Cup-winning playmaker has enjoyed an illustrious career at the highest level over the last eight years, taking in two spells at United either side of a successful stint in Italy with Juventus.
The 26-year-old is widely considered to be one of the finest players of his generation, but despite his global status, he has still been a target of racist abuse from certain groups of fans.
The 2018-19 campaign saw racism rear its ugly head once again, with England and Wales players boycotting social media due to online abuse back in April.
The incident came after several members of the Three Lions squad were subjected to racist chanting during a 2020 European Championship qualifier in Macedonia on March 25.
Italian football also came under the spotlight earlier this year, as 19-year Juventus striker Moise Kean was racially abused by a faction of supporters in a Serie A fixture against Cagliari.
Pogba has expressed his sadness over the ongoing issue, with awareness campaigns failing to silence the hateful minority of people attending matches across the globe.
During an interview with The Times, the France international offered an insight into how he deals with racist abuse on a regular basis.
“Yeah I did [experience racism]. When I see the reaction of others I just think about it – ‘would I do that or not’,” Pogba began.
“It’s sad to see that. Really sad to see that on the football pitch. When the fans that do that, they even have black people in their team, it’s even more sad to see that. They don’t respect the player and the team. I just thought they’re racist, or not, or ignorant, I don’t know. Or they just don’t want you to perform well. I see and hear a lot of things but I don’t react. I smile.
“I have a story, we had a game against Fiorentina and I just came off the bench and someone made some sounds, maybe like a monkey, I said ‘why’? I just gave him my shirt and at the end, they were happy and applauded me. I just pray for them and [try to] make people understand we just enjoy sport, we just enjoy playing football. I understand they want their team to win but there’s a different way to attract attention. To do something like that is really low. In 2019 it’s really low.
“The world is beautiful with a lot of colours and cultures, when I speak about racism it’s ignorance. You can’t really change something because it’s been there for a long time. When you speak you try to do things, speak about it and it just carries on. You can’t change that with people. You won’t leave the pitch, if you want to play you’ll play, try to score, try to win and that’s it. Life goes on and at the end, they come after the game and ask for a picture.
“I’m sad [about racism in football]. I’m not angry. Because I’m happy with myself. I have a Chinese friend, an Italian agent, a Brazilian lawyer. I have a Bolivian wife, I’m French. Guinean originally. My mum is from Guinea. All my life it’s a different culture. I’m just happy with myself. I enjoy playing football. I enjoy giving a smile to people and that’s it. That’s all I need. Be happy with yourself. Be loved by your family, fans, don’t think about people that hate or racists or people who are ignorant, they just pull you back.
“[How do you combat it?] We’ve tried everything. Putting videos up before the games [saying] no racism, pictures, campaigns, everything and they’re still doing it. What can you do? That’s people. There’s a proverb; you want to change the world, start to clean your house – start with yourself and then after we’ll go around and around. You can’t be in everyone’s head. Do the opposite that they do to you. Maybe it’ll make them realise they feel really ridiculous.”