GAA has ‘missed opportunity’ on Black Lives Matter, says Cork star, as another Kerry youngster reveals abuse

Franz Sauerland has become the latest Gaelic footballer to reveal the racist abuse he has endured.
GAA has ‘missed opportunity’ on Black Lives Matter, says Cork star, as another Kerry youngster reveals abuse
Franz Sauerland playing for his school P.S. Chorcha Dhuibhne in 2018

Young GAA player Franz Sauerland has become the latest footballer to reveal the racist abuse he has endured on the field of play.

The 19-year-old plays for the An Ghaeltacht club in Kerry and shared some of his negative experiences with video journalist Seán Mac an tSíthigh in an interview conducted in Irish.

Translated, Sauerland says: “People ask me, ‘what are you doing in this country? Why are you playing this sport? Go back to your own country’. The worst insult I ever heard was ‘go back to your cotton fields’. That upset me.

“I just feel it’s completely wrong. It upsets me when I hear those things. But I have fantastic teammates who stand up for me and support me whenever it happens.”

Sauerland’s revelations follow the account of Australian Rules player Stefan Okunbor, the former Kerry minor and U20 player, who spoke at the weekend about the abuse he endured while playing for the Na Gaeil club in Tralee.

“Whilst I was taking a shot against a team which I won’t name out of respect, an opposing player began to make monkey noises,” Okunbor revealed.

In another game, an opponent who had previously been a teammate lashed out with another racist tirade.

“I engaged with this particular player only for him to turn around and yell out something all too familiar, ‘What do you think you’re doing you black bastard?’”

Okunbor spoke out in the hope that awareness that this kind of abuse is happening will change attitudes and behaviour.

“I just hope that these incidents that I’ve shared and the realisation that everyone globally is coming to terms with, can make people act differently when witnessing any form of racism. It is a topic that can easily be overlooked.”

And Cork ladies football star Niamh Cotter believes the various Gaelic Games bodies should come out in support of the anti-racism movement.

She tweeted: “Very disappointed with the lack of response by the GAA, LGFA and Camogie assoc to the anti-racism movement. Missed opportunity to pledge to further promote an inclusive environment. Citing being a “non-political organisation” not good enough when basic human rights at issue.”

GAA Director of Communications Alan Milton pointed out that the GAA is "active behind the scenes all of the time and review matters on an ongoing basis with full-time Diversity and Inclusion Officer Ger McTavish".

The English FA recently announced it will not discipline any player that takes a public stand against racism once the Premier League returns on June 17th.

Fifa also urged national bodies to show common sense if players reveal protest slogans during matches.

“Fifa fully understands the depth of sentiment and concerns expressed by many footballers in light of the tragic circumstances of the George Floyd case,” football’s global governing body said. “Fifa has repeatedly expressed itself to be resolutely against racism and discrimination of any kind.”

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