On the 17 November last year, Excelsior winger Ahmad Mendes Moreira experienced an afternoon he and the Dutch public have not forgotten. During a match against FC Den Bosch he had chants directed at him, amongst other things, he was told he is a ‘cancer black’, ‘cancer n*****’ and ‘Zwarte Piet’.
The incidents directed at the 24 year old, who was born to a Bissau-Guinean father and a Guinean mother, in the town of Schiedam in the south West of the country, and played at Feyenoord as a youth and last season was in the Eredivisie with Gronigen FC led to the match being stopped. The footage of anger and tears on Mendes Moreira’s face as he and his team mates walked off the pitch shocked many in the Netherlands.
The incident has led to the Dutch government deciding something needs to be done and spending 14 million Euros to tackle racism in football. Mendes Moreira hopes it works. “Something really has to change in people’s heads,” he told the AD newspaper said on Saturday at the launch.
How does it feel to be at the heart of what will happen now with this ‘attack plan’?
It sounds very silly, but this had to happen sometime. It’s very sad, and sad that this had to happen to me. But it has been the reason for the KNVB and the government to come up with this plan. The measures look good. But whether it works, remains to be seen. If during a match racist things are shouted out again, hopefully we will see immediately that something is done about it. “But this isn’t a problem you can solve in two weeks.
Have you ever been abused before?
I still get everything thrown to my head. And look, I don’t mind being criticised. That’s part of the fact that the opposing supporters want to make things difficult for you. As long as it doesn’t happen in a racist way. I’m glad that it hasn’t happened to me again.’
There will now be money for better cameras, which also record sound. Does that help?
Yes, but it’s technically very complicated. I myself have more confidence in the reporting app, which allows people to report racism and discrimination in the stands anonymously. A lot of people still don’t dare to go to someone who calls out racist things. Such an app can help, I think. But then the clubs really have to work on it.”
There will also be a campaign to make people ‘aware’ of racism and discrimination. Are you happy with that?
It’s a good start. Something really has to change in people’s heads.
KNVB director Jan Dirk van der Zee says it’s not good that the football association itself is a white organisation. Do you agree with him?
At the end of the day, that’s just the way it is. If, for example, you see how diverse the Dutch national team is, and you compare it to the KNVB, I can see a big difference.’
Are you proud of what has been accomplished?
I’m always proud. Look, I have a double feeling about this, too. It was very annoying that things got so out of hand at that November game. But I’m proud now that it wasn’t for nothing. That there is now money to tackle it and that there is a plan of attack. I hope that things will really change.
Interview adapted from the AD newspaper