|Photo: Aleksandra Szmigiel-Wiśniewska/Running Creatives|
Being an import coach and/or an athlete has its benefits and perks - from getting to experience new cultures, traveling, expanding football and last but not least - making an impact in the local community, BUT, it can have some down sides.
Most would think it's all about football and partying for the Americans who come to Europe, however, some unpleasant situations may occur as well. We're not implying in any way that nationalism and racism towards Americans who come for football to Europe is happening all the time, but, we wanted to talk about the isolated cases and how to overcome them.
We reached out to coach Daniel Levy to start the discussion, and later down the line, we'll publish interviews with some of the athletes as well.
- You are definitely prejudged at times, sometimes in positive ways. Sometimes in negative ways. Some referees may be more hostile toward you. Sometimes the opposite. Outside of football, people will often associate you with media images. You hear a lot of opinions about American politics. Culture. But I have never encountered anything threatening. - says coach Levy and continues: That said, it is definitely different for me than it is for people of color. One of the worst things I've seen was here in Warsaw. My import and I were trying to get a cab and they would drive off as soon as we walked up. So he hung back and I was able to get one easy.
Most think it's all about football and parties - however they don't see the other side of the medal - how to keep cool, and how to deal with little situations like that coach Levy mentioned - when you're prejudged based on the country you're coming from.
- Sometimes it's just people not leaving you alone. Drunk guys cornering you and wanting to talk about nothing. Happens a lot. Other times it's idiots being more hostile as soon as they hear you speaking English. And, cab drivers trying to rip you off.
Luckily, these situations are easily avoidable. And easily handled. Coach Levy also has advice for the newcomers.
I would tell them that sometimes there are ignorant people everywhere. It isn't that racism is worse in Europe, but it is more open in certain countries, which is an unfortunate statement in 2016. You will have a great time, but there will be situations where you have to have thick skin. Unfortunately as well, most black people I know have already grown up dealing with stuff like this.
#1 thing is just ignoring them. And trying to avoid the situations that are avoidable.
Don't let the idiots bring you down, no matter where you are. Be a stand-up guy, be an example. Your teammates will love you and have your back. What else do you need.
I think that racism in all forms and venues should not be tolerated. I would penalize any of my players for language or actions like that during games or practice. Football is about inclusion. Especially in Europe where we are working together to grow the sport. There is no place for intolerance. - says coach Levy.