Two men, one problem and no end in sight.
When Paul Pogba sat down with Moise Kean to discuss racism for a new UEFA documentary, each could feel the other’s pain.
Kylian Mbappe and co may have drawn that line in the sand with the walkoff in the Champions League game between PSG and Istanbul Basaksehir earlier this month.
But for Pogba and Kean the scars of what they’d suffered already have left an indelible mark.
Kean, on loan at PSG from Everton, recalled the abuse he endured in April last year at Cagliari as a Juventus striker.
Speaking on the documentary, Outraged, Football Tackles Discrimination, he said: “We were playing away from home against Cagliari. We heard ‘Ooo, Ooo, Ooo!’, which is what you do to imitate a monkey.
“I said: ‘I need to do something here. I need to do something. I need to score to make them truly…”
“A cross came in from (team-mate) Rodrigo Bentacur. I got in there. Goal. I went to the Cagliari stands and opened my arms as if to say: “This is me. I am black. I am black. I am who I am.”
Pogba adds: “It’s not like a white person can understand it. Perhaps they can understand. But they’ve never been in your shoes. Never in my shows. They’ve never heard ‘Oh, monkey’.
Pogba then recalls his own experience, also as a Juventus star, playing in front of a hostile Fiorentina crowd.
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He explains: “I was playing away at Fiorentina. There was a child screaming and insulting me along with his father.
“I was in shock as he was doing that with his son. I took off my shirt and gave it to them and eventually they applauded me.
“I thought it was the best answer I could give. His son was supporting Fiorentina and maybe he was happy to receive my jersey.”
In a summing up to underline the scale of the fight facing football, however, Pogba reiterated the weary resignation of a generation of footballers who now steel themselves to expect abuse every time they play.
“Maybe for us it has become normal,” he went on. “You see it more and more. It’s sad to say that because it has maybe become normal. I feel sorry for those people. I really want to understand why.
“There are a lot of people that can resolve this. We need to do something to make a change.”
Outraged: Football Tackling Discrimination is a powerful hour exploring discrimination in all areas of the game across Europe.
It is also a signal in itself that, since Mirror Sport’s exclusive interview with UEFA President Alexander Ceferin twelve months ago, the organisation has taken its head out of the sand.
PFA deputy chief executive Bobby Barnes has since become the first black man appointed to UEFA’s disciplinary committee in charge of punishments for racism.
Sanctions will be reviewed with the spotlight on the European game at all levels. The documentary includes footage from a string of incidents on and off the pitch, from the walkoff in the game between Haringey Borough and Yeovil to the man being pushed off a train in France by Chelsea fans.
As clubs step up to the plate to do their bit in addressing racism, UEFA is well aware that the onus is on them to do the same.
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