We welcome Alima Hotakie to the Footy Blog, our new intern. Alima is an aspiring sports journalist/soccer reporter who is currently finishing up a post-graduate program in Sports Journalism with Centennial College. She was raised in Germany and speaks three languages.

There seems to be no end in sight when it comes to racism and football. The two are starting to look more and more like conjoined twins, particularly in England. But there are signs the problem is turning up in continental Europe as well.

To add to the Luis Suarez, John Terry and Mark Clattenburg saga is an event that occurred on national television in Austria. The country’s comedy duo Stermann and Grissemann are in hot water after the Austrian broadcaster (ORF) aired a skit last month with strong racial overtones.

In the parody, a dialogue takes place between Bayern Munich’s David Alaba and Canadian-Austrian billionaire Frank Stronach (if the name sounds familiar, that’s because he is the father of former Canadian MP Belinda Stronach, who defected to the Liberals from the Conservatives), who are played by Stermann and Grissemann.

The actor that represents David Alaba is wearing black-face make-up, an outdated and racist tradition that was banned in theaters across the United States during the Civil Rights Movement. If that wasn’t bad enough, it gets worse.

In the parody, social and cultural stereotypes are reinforced. Because Alaba is black (he’s in fact mixed race; his mother is from the Philippines), the actor playing Stronach assumes he lives in a Fluechtlingslager in Traiskirchen, a refugee camp near Vienna.

He then describes the player’s home as a hut with a straw roof. He also assumes Alaba didn’t finish school or earn an education and repeatedly mispronounces his name as Balaba.

At one point, he calls him ‘blackman’ and then Roberto Blanco, a reference to a black actor and singer in Germany, which perpetuates another stereotype that all blacks look alike.

To make matters worse, near the very end of the skit, the actor playing Stronach pulls out a banana and asks, “Alaba what is it?” He then says that he probably knows better than he does because he always sees them.

Alaba of course has already filed a complaint with the broadcaster. His team and club are also fully behind him.

Bayern Munich’s spokesperson Markus Hoerwick, said it’s unfortunate such an incident would occur while the rest of soccer is trying to combat racism. He thought it was tasteless and would never have been possible in Germany (translated from Die Presse).

Today the broadcaster and comedians released an apology, but only after all the negative backlash. The YouTube video has also been taken down by copyright request from ORF, though other sketches from the show remain on the site.

The duo said they’re sorry the satire offended and upset Alaba. Meanwhile, the Austrian broadcaster said the skit was misunderstood. It was never their intention to racially abuse Alaba, and that he is one of the country’s most successful athletes and the pride of the country.

Now of course, Alaba isn’t the only victim in the satire. Some may argue that Stronach is the bigger victim as he probably bears the brunt of the jokes. After all, it is he who is portrayed as a racist. In any case, subject or object, this incident is another reminder that racist abuse toward footballers remains at a time when the sport is desperately trying to move in the other direction.

Comments (7)

  1. Hm, the skit was obviously aimed at Stronach/Austrian politicians and not Alaba. It actually references an ÖVP politician from Kärnten called Platter who adressed Alaba in English when the Austrian NT was in a training camp there some month ago. Despite the fact that Alaba speaks perfect German (with a nice tang of Vienese inflection, indeed).

    It was very, very clumsily presented though, and I it is good they pulled it.

    Still, Stermann/Grissemann gave us one of the best German/Austrian football comedy skits: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XnjdvCNJy-s

  2. I didn’t know that Alaba was half Filipino. It’s too bad he is cap tied. But it is good to see an increase of players of Filipino decent doing well these days. It sad to think that they were at height as a footballing nation 100 years ago. One colonizer giveth while another taketh away.

    And for anyone interested in this kind of stuff, Sportsnet World will be showing the FA Cup first round tie between Bristol Rovers (featuring Filipino nation team keeper Neil Etheridge) v Sheffield United at 5:30am on Sunday morning.

  3. Belinda, not Melinda. And Frank Stronach is plenty famous in his own right.
    Was black face ever banned? Is Tyler Bozak going to get arrested?
    Also, if it’s satire, is it right to call the subjects victims? Stronach is a major political figure in Austria, he’s fair game for this kind of thing. I’m not sure if Alaba was too dumb to get the joke on Stronach or if the joke was so terribly told that it was actually offensive. We’ll never know now…
    No one should feel bad about laughing along with racial humour. The jokes on the Chappele Show, for example, could be considered offensive if one lacked a sense of humour. Clayton Bigsby, The Mad Real World, Roots outtakes…

    • Thanks for pointing out the spelling mistake. And black face may not be banned but it’s use has been discontinued in most places. Your point is valid to some degree, but there’s a fine line that needs to be drawn. If Alaba himself felt offended then we should respect his decision.

  4. “But there are signs the problem is turning up in continental Europe as well.”

    If you think football racism on continental europe is some new phenomenon you’ve really got your head in the sand.

  5. ANOTHER writer bringing up racism on this site? how tedious… please, a Bundesliga game was played today, why not talk about that then this really inane, melodramatic material?

    • There’s nothing melodramatic about racism. Sadly we live in a world where racism and football intersect…it’s a salient issue that needs to be brought up as often as possible. pls, don’t downplay its seriousness.

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