On the surface, Chelsea’s win against Rennes in the Champions League a few weeks ago was one of the most cost-effective, check-box exercises to disperse team levels in the tournament. Chelsea, the most favorite – the best financial firefighter, a team with a deep and broad aspirations – won.
Beyond the score, there was little to remember about it. Yet that game, like the return match in France on Tuesday, was rare not only in the Champions League, but in overall elite European football.
Shockingly, this season may be the only two games in which both teams have played as a black goalkeeper in the Champions League: 28-year-old Dort Mendy, who was bought by Chelsea in September, and replaced by Alfred Gomez at Rennes.
Some games are level playing fields that believe in themselves. Black quarterbacks once played in the NFL because there were black entrants in the tennis championships and golf majors. Football, like many other sports, still struggles for black representation in leadership roles: there are fewer black managers and fewer black executives.
Of course, there is ample exemplary evidence that this game – if not in Europe, the United States or Africa – has deep-rooted suspicion of black goalkeepers, which has been allowed to thrive by lack of analysis and lack of opportunity. And even lack of approval.
Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana has a story about a time when an Italian club told him that the move to sign a black goalkeeper would not be accepted by its fans. There’s another one about a former Premier League manager who, when he offered two new guys, openly rejected those who weren’t in white. No need to watch him play, he said.
For most of his career in England, former goalkeeper Shaga Hislop knew the unspoken monotony that gave him the shadow, and he still remembers when that voice was given. He and his comrades for Trinidad and Tobago spent the day waiting at the New York airport and an immigration official – who didn’t realize much about who he was – explained to him, for a long time, why Black players didn’t make good goalkeepers.
However, the statistics reveal just how deeply rooted the problem is. Of Europe’s five major leagues, France’s 20-team League 1 – featured nine Black goalkeepers last season, and eight have already had time to play this year – is a foreigner. The numbers elsewhere are stark.
Before last week’s international break, 77 goalkeepers appeared at least a minute across the Bundesliga, Serie A and La Liga. None of them are black. Last year, the appearance of Black goalkeepers was similarly rare: only two of the 92 men who scored goals in Italy and Spain, and only two of the 36 men featured in Germany.
The UK figures are almost remarkable. Only three Black players have scored in a Premier League match this year: Fulham’s Alphonse Ariola, Brighton’s Robert Sanchez and Chelsea’s Mendy. Five more are currently enrolled in Premier League teams, including American international Zach Stephen in Manchester City, but have yet to play in the league.
The difference between the meager size and number of black goalkeepers Black outfield players In all the elite leagues in Europe it is difficult to write that this is an accident or the illusion of a temporary snapshot. Black goalkeepers are less frequently referred to in European football. Africans are even more extraordinary.
Each year, for example, the traditional power centers of West Africa have dozens of players on the list of major leagues in Europe. But the first-choice goalkeepers of Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Ghana are all still playing in Africa. No African country has produced as many elite goalkeepers as Cameron, who once sent Jack Tsongo and Thomas N’Cono to play in Spain and sent Joseph-Antoine Bell to a longer career in France, with the country’s current No. 1 goalkeeper, Fabrice Ondova, one of Europe’s Marquez Did not leave the first section.
Onana, a relative of Ondova – and a national team player – at least, plays in the Champions League for Ajax. But only Senegal, with two goalkeepers Mendy and Gomez playing in the world’s biggest club, can say with confidence that two goalkeepers will compete at the highest level of professional football.
Mendy has no ready explanation for why it might be. Perhaps, when Chelsea were introduced as a player, he said, it could do something with the mis-defined “profile” of the players the coaches want. Others have different, deeply rooted interpretations.
“There was a stigma attached to the idea of a black quarterback in the NFL,” said former Everton and US goalkeeper Tim Howard. “It was this idea that they didn’t have cerebellum.”
Howard sees its repercussions on the lack of black goalkeepers. Football has long considered itself a worthy team – at least on the field – it has moved beyond old, damaging stereotypes. Dig a little deeper and have their detrimental influence. There are still black players Statistically less likely to play in midfield or offensive midfieldFor example, physical qualities such as speed and power are more likely to be praised by commentators than ambiguous qualities such as “intelligence” and “leadership.” Very rarely, the elite seem to have been given the opportunity to achieve the goal at the European level.
Mendy admits that helping to break the stereotype falls to her. What he can do is, “Show that I can really act on this level and change people’s minds on these things.” For those who have to endure the same prejudices, those who have spent their lives hoping to be an agent of change, this is part of the problem.
Hislop, now ESPN commentator, magnifies the case of Jordan Pickford, the current first-choice goalkeeper for Everton and England. Pickford has been under scrutiny over the past few years for technical flaws in his game and the tendency to rash. “Everyone gets attention once in a while,” Hislop said.
The difference is that whenever Bigford makes a mistake, “no one uses his acting to declare that white players do not make good goalkeepers,” Hislop said. The only reputation he would suffer if Bigford made a mistake was his.
Black goalkeepers, Hislop argues, were not offered the same privilege. This was felt by him throughout his career, he said, as if every personal error was being used as conclusive evidence that “black goalkeepers are all wrong”. It doesn’t just apply to him: when goalkeeper David James made a mistake with Liverpool, Manchester City and England, he believed those errors were the same source.
He sees it in parallel with the black representation in other areas of the game. Hislop quotes Les Ferdinand, director of Queens Park Rangers football, as currently playing in the UK second tier championship. As soon as he was appointed, Hislop said he knew Ferdinand had more than his reputation.
“If 80 percent of football’s white male directors in the league fail miserably, it will not prevent anyone from appointing the next white boy,” Hislop said. “But Les should give the other Black players a shot.”
This also applies to goalkeepers in Hislop’s view, and creates a self-sufficient cycle. Former Cameroonian international Carlos Carmeni has spent most of his career in Espanyol, Spain, saying he believes the shortage of black goalkeepers is not “a form of racism”.
Khamenei said that if a goalkeeper is enough, one of Europe’s top clubs will sign him and that he will use Mendy’s arrival at Chelsea as evidence. For Kameni, the problem is very simple. “Not enough black goalkeepers are enough,” he said in a series of WhatsApp messages.
Those two things are not interconnected. The problem, Hislop says, is that not only are coaches less likely to give interested Black goalkeepers the opportunity to show off their skills, but Black Players have fewer role models and provide evidence that they can succeed. “They don’t have an example to follow,” he said.
He is, at the very least, optimistic. Howard, Bill Hameed, Sean Johnson and now Stephen find a country that effectively killed stereotype and a football culture, a boat of black goalkeepers promising in the United States, and named after Philadelphia’s Andre Blake – Jamaica International Goalkeeper of the Year in Major League Soccer.
Hislop cites Brazil as evidence that it will disappear uniformly. For a long time – despite the proven evidence to the contrary – the good news was that Brazil did not produce high-quality goalkeepers.
“Everyone in Trinidad and Tobago considers themselves a Brazil fan,” Hislop said. “They will always say that Brazil did not create goalkeepers. But now you have Alison and Ederson, they are two of the best in the world. No one will say it again. ”
Prejudices, unspoken or not. Evil cycles can be stopped in their tracks, or reversed. Mendy, Gomis, Onana and others can help with that process. Shame, of course, they have to do so.