South Africa’s Benni McCarthy considered walking off due to racism

Former South Africa captain Benni McCarthy says he nearly walked off the pitch because of the incessant racism during matches when he played in Europe.

The striker began his European career with in 1997 at Dutch club Ajax.

He went onto play for clubs in Spain, Portugal and England during his career.

“At times I didn’t want to even play anymore because I couldn’t take it, people calling you all kinds of things,” he said.

“It’s not my fault my skin is darker than others. I was born this way.”

McCarthy said he learnt to deal with it over time despite the distress it caused him.

“It used to give me more energy when people are so ignorant and racist, they make you play better, they make you want to beat their team so bad,” he added.

Twenty years after McCarthy arrived in Europe, the issue of racism is still in the headlines.

On Sunday, Pescara and Ghana midfielder Sulley Muntari walked off the pitch after he complained of racist abuse during a match against Cagliari.

Muntari was banned for a match after he was booked for dissent after asking the referee to stop the match claiming he was being racially abused.

The 32-year-old ex-Ghana international then walked off the pitch in protest – for which he received a second yellow card, officials have now confirmed.

Cagliari were not punished by the authorities in Italy for the abuse saying not enough fans took part in the abuse to trigger action.

McCarthy said his worst period was when he played for Celta Vigo and Ajax Amsterdam.

“You find the whole stadium making monkey noises and throw bananas,” said McCarthy as he reflected on his playing days in Europe,” he explained.

“For me colour is just a reflection, we are all human beings, we are the same.

“”In Portugal when you play for your club, they love you but when you play outside your club, it’s different, you suffer, you face racism.”

Things were however different for him in England, where he played for Blackburn and West Ham United.

“Of my journey, England was probably the most respectful. I was very surprised that in England you don’t hear monkey chants from opposition fans,” the 39-year-old continued.

“They swear and throw personal insults, call you useless but racism – no.

“I applaud the the Premier League for having such a strong regime and football clubs for making sure that their fans are respectful to ethnic African minority players.”

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