A Few Words about Son Heung-min: Accolades yet Room to Grow

Courtesy of AFP / Adrian Dennis

It’s only a little more than a few words, but I hope you enjoy anyway. Also hope everyone is having an amazing holiday season! Please feel free to leave a New Year’s wish or two for the KNT or any Korean player, for that matter, in the comments. All viewpoints expressed in the article are mine and mine only.

2019: the year of Son Heung-min. When KNT fans look back at the 27-year-old’s career, we’ll see what an incredible period of time these last two, three seasons have been for him. Along with a Champions League final appearance and multiple wonder goals, SHM now has a collection of year-end awards and accolades to show for his recent performances. Undoubtedly, the winger is now considered a member of the upper echelon of players in world football.

In this month alone, SHM has been recognized as “KFA Korea Republic Male Player of the Year”, “AFC Asian International Player of the Year” and “Best Footballer in Asia”. He hasn’t been confined to just regional or continental recognition either. Last month, ESPN FC listed SHM as the fifth best winger in the world in a class topped by his Premier League peers, Sadio Mané and Raheem Sterling. The Guardian reaffirmed his “world class” status, placing him 19th this year in their annual list of “The 100 best male footballers in the world”.

Ballon d’Or voters might have placed upon SHM the greatest honor of all. He was recognized as one of thirty nominees to be designated as the best footballer in the world this year. SHM was the sole Asian player in the list, strengthening his status as a global cultural icon. In the grand scheme of things, it would be no big deal to determine that Korea’s best footballer is hitting his prime. However, the red card incident last Sunday shows the Chuncheon native still has room for improvement.

Down by two goals to Chelsea at half-time, Spurs were quickly losing their grip on a coveted fourth place position in the Premier League. It all took a turn for the worse for Tottenham in the 60th minute. In an attempt to control a long ball, SHM clashed with Antonio Rüdiger and dropped down to the ground in response to the contact. In frustration, SHM sneakily lifted his left boot into Rüdiger’s ribs, prompting Rüdiger to dramatically fall to the turf with arms over his lower body.

Then, a minute later, SHM was on his knees in despair after a VAR decision had him sent off with a red card for his conduct against Rüdiger. The incident dissipated any chance that Spurs had of defeating Chelsea that night, allowing the gap between the Blues and their London rivals to widen to six points. It was also the third time that SHM had been issued a red card this year. Each incident stemmed from his tendency to retaliate emotionally against perceived in-game slights.

Spurs manager Jose Mourinho outspokenly deflected the idea that SHM had caused a problem, instead assigning blame for the incident on Rüdiger. After the match, he insisted that Rüdiger had overreacted to SHM’s nudging, sarcastically wishing him recovery for his “broken ribs.” Mourinho had doubled down on his comments as late as Wednesday, claiming that Rüdiger’s reaction was okay in other countries but uncalled for in the Premier League. The English Football Association would ultimately reject Spurs’ appeal for SHM’s three-match ban.

However, it was not the incident itself, but rather what happened after it that would cause controversy. Shortly after SHM had left the pitch, Rüdiger had heard “monkey noises” coming from the stands, alerting the referee in the process. Play was momentarily stopped, and an announcement denouncing racism was played from loudspeakers in the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. An investigation into the incident was called upon by Spurs and the English FA; no individual has yet to be attributed to the disruption. 

Instead, police arrested one Chelsea fan for a racially aggravated public order offense against SHM. Although SHM did not hear any of the verbal abuse, other Chelsea fans had reported the incident to the authorities. Racism has become a hot topic issue in the global football community over the last few years, especially in England. Spurs defender Jan Vertonghen publicly condemned those supposedly perpetrating racial abuse against Rüdiger, referring to them as “minority idiots.” 

As 2019 comes to a close, I think KNT fans can come together on two points of agreement. First of all, SHM cannot continue to let his emotions get the best of him, especially in the most crucial moments of the match. More importantly, racist incidents in football are shameful and fans and players need to unite together to stamp out these incidents. 

In terms of SHM’s emotions, remember that red card against Bournemouth last May? It was totally avoidable and Spurs had a definite chance of winning the match to gain a more comfortable position as a top four in the Premier League table. 

Yet, despite the favorable predicament, SHM felt the need to retaliate harshly to what he perceived as an in-game slight. He would leave his team vulnerable, and they would end up losing the late-season away match 1-0. By the end of the season, Tottenham had squeaked by with UCL qualification, finishing just one point above arch rivals Arsenal. This is just one example amongst a few in which SHM’s non-football actions have had a negative impact on his club’s ability to win. 

He’s now been gone for two matches and won’t return to Spurs until January 5 for a face-off against Middlesborough in the FA Cup. A player as consequential as SHM has the ability to provide his club with the extra boost needed to get to a prospective UEFA Champions League final. However, when such a player is unavailable, it could cost a club its chance at even playing in the Champions League. 

As we enter a new year, let’s hope that SHM can return back to Spurs refreshed and with the right mindset. Despite the three-game roadblock, Son is still on-track to surpass his season-high of 21 goals in all club competitions (2016-2017). So far this season, the 27-year-old has bagged 10 goals. He’s also notched seven assists in the Premier League this season, enough for the third most in the league. Let’s just hope we never have to see another “Rüdiger” incident because it could really cost SHM and his club in a future instance.

The bigger point out of this incident is that racism in football needs to die. As a football fan, I used to think the football community was generally above racist behavior due to the highly global nature of the sport. However, over the last few years, many instances of racial abuse perpetrated by football fans all over the world have challenged my initial belief. As noted by some figures in sports media such as Gary Neville, what’s happening around the pitch is reflective of what’s happening in our society.

This is really about more than football. This recent rise of racial abuse in football stadiums coincides with the rise of nationalistic attitudes around the world. Those who harbor nativist sentiments are now emboldened by current political and cultural developments to vocalize anxieties regarding racial and national identity. Although we have a tendency to dissociate politics from sports, the truth is that the two are highly intertwined. As long as human beings are behind the games we love, nothing will change that. 

Fortunately, football clubs are doing the right thing in emphasizing a zero-tolerance policy against those that choose to publicly engage in bigotry. Clubs like Tottenham Hotspur do well on their part by imposing lifetime bans against “fans” who commit such egregious acts of misconduct. Fans play a major part in the fight against football’s racism problem as well. The Chelsea fans who reported racial abuse against SHM prove that fans have the ability to prioritize the humanity of a stranger over senseless tribalism.

Now the pressure should be on leagues throughout the world to implement hardline policies against racism. Some have suggested point deductions for clubs with fan bases that repeat violations regarding racial abuse against players or other fans in the stadium. Others, like ESPN FC commentator Craig Burley, have called on players to band together and abandon matches when players are subject to racial abuse. The latter suggestion is powerful because it forces fans to directly face a zero-tolerance stance against racism in football. Simply put, if fans are resorting to racist taunts against players, the players have every right to walk off and deny them the opportunity to watch the match live. 

As we approach a new decade, we can learn to appreciate one of the greatest aspects of football, soccer or whatever you call the sport: its ability to bring people together. Without its ability to transcend labels like race and nationality, we wouldn’t be here to talk about SHM’s global success today. For that reason alone, I think everyone reading this can agree to put a knife into the underbelly of racism in football. And as long as people continue to rail against injustice, I have full faith that racism in football can be shamed out of existence. 


  1. You make some good points here. I noticed Rudiger “bumped” into Son a few times during the match to slow his progress. However, I really think Son was more impatient with his teammates for not able to string together good passes to create any kind of attacking opportunities. I could tell he was brewing a bit as the game went on, as he was really up for that Chelsea match. Regrettably, he let his frustration get to him and lost cool in that incident. That was a straight red card under the letters of the rule, so he got what he deserves. For a player of his stature, he should know better to behave with more restraint under such circumstances, and hopefully he will grow as a mature leader on the pitch in the future. At the moment, notwithstanding all his accolades and accomplishments, he’s no Park Ji-Sung.

    In regards to the Bournemouth incident, Son was clearly being targeted roughly by a few players from the beginning. I think it was partly due to the fact there are (were) Colombian national players on Bournemouth, and it was sort of a carry-over from hostile matches KNT and Colombia had. I actually enjoyed Son’s retaliation on that match, despite author’s well versed explanation of how it impacted the Spurs. I really don’t recall his teammates (ironically except for Davison Sanchez) backed him up during the match, so I’m glad he stood up for himself.

    What I disagree with is this author’s assertion that there is some kind of connection between nationalism and racism. They do not equate to each other despite some socialist commentators in the media and academia who are so keen to indoctrinate the populace with such rhetoric. There were racism before any rise of nationalism and will always be part of this humanity. Stop trying to explain away things or make it worse by trying to eradicate it via some form of social engineering. As for the blatant racism in football, it needs to be dealt with it on individual level and on such individuals promptly when corrective actions and just punishments are needed. I don’t even know why in an article supposedly for the commentary on Son’s progress, this author felt compelled to introduce such topic, unless that was his intention from the beginning. If anything, more appropriate segway topic should have been about all these opportunistic You Tubers who are inserting Son’s Korean name (Hangul) characters in the video titles to exploit all these indiscriminate Koreans who click on anything and everything to do with Son.

    • Hey RC. Thank you for the detailed response.

      Firstly, Son Heung-min really does wear his heart on his sleeve when he plays. Most times, he’s able to manifest that into speedy, bursting runs that turn into incredible goals (Burnley). And that’s what earns him the respect of both Spurs’ and opposing clubs’ fans alike.

      But sometimes, it does get the best of him. I take no issue with players who stand up for themselves. Sometimes opposing players do go too far in asserting themselves and pushing physical boundaries during games. But in those incidents, I’d rather a player put their two cents in, yell out a general obscenity, and take a yellow than to escalate a situation through physical contact. Not only would it put the offending player at risk, it also puts entire teams at risk too. Fights can form out of the snowball effect, and players are too valuable in soccer for a team to have to go one man down.

      I fully understand your point about the Bournemouth situation. With that being said, I still think Son was wrong in both the Bournemouth and Chelsea matches. Hopefully we can agree to disagree.

      As far as your final point is concerned…

      You’re right: nationalism and racism aren’t inherently connected. They’re two separate concepts. But I think it’s dubious to say that there’s no relationship between them in this day and age. I get that I brought it up. Still, I won’t elaborate on the subject as I confess that I don’t consider myself enough of an expert to go into lengthy detail about it.

      I will, however, leave you with some of the sources that I looked into prior to writing this piece that led me to make such an assertion. You can either take em or leave em. If you do decide to take them, I hope you look into each source with careful detail, regardless of your take on academia and the media. That’s only because I think this is a serious topic that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Please feel free to be your own judge.

      1. https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/football-racism-proactive-efforts-sport-premier-league-a9231351.html
      2. https://theconversation.com/racist-abuse-at-football-games-is-increasing-home-office-says-but-the-sports-race-problem-goes-much-deeper-124467
      3. https://www.bbc.com/sport/football/49089209

      Edit: I did intend to discuss racism in football at some point in the article. I first mentioned it in the paragraph below the “red card” tweet. I know, however, that I did not make that clear in the title. My bad for that.

      • No, I totally agree both red cards were warranted and justified. Son acted foolishly in both cases. I was merely pointing out he was already brewing internally during the matches before he lashed out and that they weren’t some instantaneous reaction from a petulant child.

        In Rudiger’s case, Son received some questionable interference from Rudiger before the incident. But I truly believe his reaction had more to do with real frustration with his teammates for not creating offensive chances throughout the match. Spurs’ midfield and general passing were terrible that day. I could tell he was really up for the game and had the desire to shine before the world wide TV audiences. He just got more and more frustrated when such ambition was not being realized.

        And in regards to Rudiger’s claim of racist abuse, it does seem like hard evidence is missing and even circumstantial evidence is lacking. Considering how he reacted to his own goal keeper during the Arsenal match, Rudiger might be a drama queen.

        In the Bournemouth match earlier this year, there was no doubt Son was targeted by Colombian players with various cheap shots, which I’ve already mentioned in my previous posting stems from prior contentious matches between KNT and Colombia. Retaliation was called for, and unfortunately non of Son’s teammates (except for Davison Sanchez who probably figured out what was going on) came to back up Son. Hence, Son got fed up eventually and acted out clumsily. Red card was deserved but I admit I quite enjoyed it, because Asian players have reputation for being “soft,” and many watching that match were probably surprised an Asian player stood up like that.

        I also believe Son has room to improve and he hasn’t reached his full potential yet. He has gotten better at moving without the ball in particular. In fact, I do wonder at times how much more goals he can score or contribute to if he plays with a better team. There’s a reason why Son has many off-side calls against him. His teammates are tad slow in passing. This situation reminds me of what great Jackie Chan once said about working with “Hollywood” stunt men versus his Hong Kong based stunt men. The former group is fraction slower and creates more retakes or less satisfying results during the action sequences. If Son plays with a true world class midfield team or even some one like Kevin De Bruyne, that would make a world of difference to him. I hope he gets such chance during his prime years or we all be wondering what if?

        Connecting nationalism with racism is simply lazy analysis. That’s just a typical cable news type slogan for the masses. Racism will always be around regardless of what system is employed, because that is one of the natural instincts in humanity. People often talk about racism among the western countries, but I can assure you racism runs deeper and stronger in eastern bloc countries and places like India and Argentina, where people are racist against their own people if you’re not born with certain surnames. Racism in football needs to be dealt with individual basis and not with some knee-jerk reaction to the entire game and make it unbearable. I know there are many in the media who want to turn this issue into some kind of a major social crisis, and force people to keep talking about it. Please, please, please, don’t ruin this beautiful game to satiate some elite’s fantasy about how the world should be.

        • Yep, there’s still no clear-cut evidence that any Spurs fans had sent racist abuse Rudiger’s way. I talked more about this with another commenter. You can find my reply if you want to hear more from my perspective about it.

          Also, I checked the Bournemouth roster from last year, and the only Colombian player was Jefferson Lerma, who did happen to be Son’s target in that red card incident. If there was any prior animosity from the KNT-Colombia match, it was between them Son and Lerma only (Lerma was on the roster but didn’t play in that friendly, which makes that theory a little more interesting). I’m glad you mentioned it yourself, though, because I had a slight feeling that Son’s race was the main factor in you being so proud of him for sticking for himself. I fully understand that, but I’m glad we both agree that Son’s actions directly leading up to the red card were a mistake.

          Son definitely needs a strong team around him at the club-level. The closest that Spurs have been to a De Bruyne-level player is Christian Eriksen. He clearly seems to be out of it now, but at least they have Jose Mourinho, who’ll spend big money for replacements. Let’s see what happens this summer. There have always been lingering rumors that Son might move to a more prestigious club in the future (Real Madrid, Bayern Munich). But then the only competition that would matter for him would be the Champions League. He would also be more likely to have to compete for a starting role. Taking him out of the Premier League, I think, would actually take a lot of spotlight away from him. So I’m hoping he stays with Spurs as long as possible.

          Finally, I think there’s something fundamentally wrong with your sentiment about the nature of racism in society. I can’t really attest for racism in every individual country or region (i.e. India, Argentina). However, I think the fact that you think racism can’t be dealt with on a societal level speaks volumes about how you think about injustice in society. In that case, I don’t think I can really speak about the topic of racism in football with you on a substantial level. All I can say is racism may never be eradicated entirely, but we can still work to ensure that it becomes outcasted. It’s not a media conspiracy nor an “elite’s fantasy of what the world should be.” This is a sentiment that is held by normal, everyday people because, believe it or not, many are only beginning to understand how race affects their livelihoods and chances of economic, social mobilization in society.

          You also imply that racism in the Western world is a non-issue relative to the racism that happens in other countries, which somehow makes it less warranting of discussion. That’s incredibly problematic. Of course, racism exists everywhere. Poverty, sexism, religious intolerance, etc also exist everywhere as well. Does that mean we can’t talk about economic inequality or other societal imbalances, hierarchical structures in the United States, England, etc. just because they happen to be worse elsewhere? Masking a problem just because it has gotten relatively better means that an issue becomes stagnant like a bullet that hasn’t been ejected from the body. The doctors may have treated the gunshot wound, but as long as that piece of metal stays in your body, you’re going to feel some pain in that area of your body every time the weather changes. And every time that happens, you’re only going to be reminded of the traumatic situation or predicament that led to you getting shot in the first place. The best two scenarios? The bullet gets ejected naturally by the body or eventually gets removed with assistance. If possible, removal with assistance is the better, more efficient choice. It’s the same deal with racism in society. We either get together and talk about ways in which to fight it or simply deal with it. I know what I want.

          Also, just because something is a natural instinct (which racism is not btw… you just have a defeatist mentality that makes you think it is), doesn’t mean we don’t have the ability to fight it through education. Humans are genetically hard-wired to prefer foods with high fat and sugar content. That doesn’t mean everyone engages in eating fatty, sweet foods all the time. We learn that such foods are bad for us through education, and many of us stray away entirely from eating them.

          TL;DR: I think you have it entirely backwards. The beautiful game of football is being ruined by the rise of racism, not by the discourse that revolves around how to handle it as a society. And if you continue to carry a defeatist mentality about racism, I can’t further converse with you about it.

          • Happy New Year!

            All indications are Son genuinely enjoys living in London, so it’s hard to imagine him leaving Spurs anytime soon. No other club in the London area would suit him anyway at the moment. Nor do I think a big club in Spain would be a pleasant experience for him. Environment associated with big clubs there just don’t match his personality. You have be a bit of a jerk to thrive there. I would rather see him go back to Bundesliga and join Bayern Munich if all possible. That’s much more compatible with his preferred style of playing. However, considering how much of TV rights fees and revenue generating bonanza Son has been for the Premier League, I’m certain all possible attempts will be made to keep him in England. I also think as long as he performs, Italy will welcome him even as a foreigner and way more accepted than players from other continents. I won’t even attempt to explain as to why, but people who live(d) and work(ed) there know exactly what I’m talking about.

            I don’t want to get drawn into a long discussion about racism in football, but it was only brought up because you elected to insert the topic within the commentary about Son’s progress. I particularly disagree with you in regards to connecting nationalism to racism, as if they go hand in hand. You stated “………….This recent rise of racial abuse in football stadiums coincides with the rise of nationalistic attitudes around the world. Those who harbor nativist sentiments are now emboldened by current political and cultural developments to vocalize anxieties regarding racial and national identity…………” I find that statement simply wrong. There were racist incidents in football far before any recent tide of nationalism. Yes, long before Brexit or anything else, but it just seems to be more prevalent these days due to the mainstream media coverage and ubiquitous CCTV and smart phones. Japan has the most nationalistic government since the World War II, yet I don’t know of any racist football incidents there. And most ardent football fans know they have players from all over the globe these days. Globalists are always trying to tie in nationalism with some kind of bigotry and racism and use Nazi Germany as their prime example. What’s really sad is that people accept such ridiculous assertion. If Hitler was a true nationalist, he wouldn’t have invaded Poland. He invaded Poland and other neighboring countries, because he was an Imperialist, an exact opposite of a nationalist.

            Furthermore, I can assure you I don’t condone racism in any shape or form nor do I harbor “defeatist” attitude about combating racism in football. I’m just against taking a knee jerk reaction against the entire industry due to acts of a very small minority. As I stated before in the previous posts, racism in football should be dealt within the realm of each individuals involved and respective responsible clubs. Elitists think they know so much better than everybody else, so they convince themselves that they have some God-given duty to social engineer everything. We don’t want such mindset in this game, or they will be ruin this beautiful game just like anything else they touch.

            You also stated not facing racism in football is allowing injustice in our society to go on. I partly agree with you on that statement, because racism is evil in nature. However, you can’t say it’s “injustice” when these are acts of individuals and not from some institutions. Only when there’s a institution wide enforcement of racism against certain select race(s), can one clearly say there is a systematic injustice. Since when football fan(s) – whether they are racists or not – have that kind of power over player(s) on the pitch? No where in any charter in UEFA, FA, FIFA, etc… am I aware of such institutional racism blatantly asserted that amounts to injustice to our society. Again, these are individual actions that should be policed individually. For racism to amount to injustice would require an institutional racism against select group(s) of people, which is clearly not the case in football anywhere. I mentioned India and Argentina in my earlier posts, because in both countries exist caste and quasi-caste that are openly ingrained in their respective society. Hence, it would be fitting to call such system unjust. I have a friend who runs a very successful global travel company. He told me once a lot of women from Argentina’s upper-middle to upper class families tend to look like clones, because so many of such families intermarry each other. To me that’s more unnatural and unjust.

            Finally, for those football players who have been subject to racist acts or those who are more vulnerable to such acts (or just other players in general), I believe there are far more personally pressing issues that damage their careers and as human beings: 1. Too many matches in a season to fulfill TV contracts and for other commercial reasons, which means their bodies take unnecessary toll and shorten their careers. 2. lack of proper financial management and guidance for the long run. 3. alcohol and substance (both legal and illegal) abuse 4 and domestic issues. I truly believe these issues far outweigh any real or potential racist acts inflicted on them, although not as glamorous to talk about them.

        • You still continue to make false and dubious statements.

          First of all, the exact opposite of nationalism is not imperialism. A nation can have imperialistic ambitions based on nationalistic motives. In the case of Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler specifically invaded countries closest to Germany in hopes of increasing lebensraum, or living space, for the German people. His idea was that there was not enough space for Germans to live in with just Germany alone. Hitler attempted to consolidate lands where ethnic Germans made up the majority in neighboring nations. He also wanted to directly establish German hegemony over non-Germans through his conquest of non-German lands in an effort to eradicate or displace them. Everything he did was done in the name of building a bigger German nation, a bigger Germany. That’s textbook nationalism.

          Secondly, racism in football has always existed, that’s true. But you’re wrong when you claim the media is what’s causing all the recent commotion over the issue. It’s not a conspiracy; the only reason the media has been covering this topic so much is because racist abuse in football has been increasing over the last few years. Reports show that racist abuse in football stadiums increased by 43% just over the past year alone. If you actually read through any of the sources I gave you, you would have came across that figure at least once or twice. And it’s not a coincidence either. There’s lots of empirical evidence, some of which I provided in my sources, that the rise of nationalistic attitudes around the world correlates with the rise of racial anxiety and its manifestations in racial discrimination and hate crimes. Not just in football, but in society. Unfortunately, you won’t listen, since you seem to have an agenda against academia and the media that prevents you from listening to the truth.

          Next, you claim that Japan has the “most nationalistic government in the world since WWII.” Are you serious? More nationalistic than the Balkan states? More nationalistic than North Korea? Please think before you type next time. Also, there are multiple reasons why there’s less racist abuse in Japanese football. Firstly, J-League teams are considerably less diverse than European first-division teams. All J-League teams consist of fully Japanese squads, usually with the exception of three, four players (usually Balkan or Brazilian). It’s harder to commit a racist act when there’s less people to target. Secondly, Japan receives immigrants but not at the same rate as countries in Europe. Because of this, Japan is not the main focus of current debates over international migration. However, Western nations are. Much of the rise in hate crimes in certain nations has much to do with the raging debate that’s going on over there regarding immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, mainly from Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East. (And yet, there are still recent instances of racism in Japanese football: https://www.bbc.com/sport/football/26704368)

          Lastly, any form of racism, whether on an individual or institutional basis, is a form of injustice. Individual acts of racism largely stem from legacies of institutional racism. Much of the racist thought that lingers on into today comes from acts and statements made by former organizations and institutions such as national governments. Government played (and still plays) a role in implementing policies that directly divided and subjugated people for their racial background or ethnic origins. When individuals perpetuate racist abuse, they carry on a legacy of institutional racism that has divided and plagued nations for entire centuries. And this is partially what I was trying to get at with my “bullet” analogy. We’ve made progress with race, but racism still clearly exists as we enter 2020. If we stop addressing it, the problem will stagnate. And right now, it’s not even stagnating; it’s rising. But we’ve made progress before, and that’s enough evidence for me to believe that racism is not natural, not inherent, and can be overcome.

          The only reason we even talk about racism in football is because it speaks volumes about racism in our society. At that point, it’s not even about fans having control over players. It’s about humans attempting to take control over other humans. And sometimes, it’s even worse, because you can’t directly face institutional racism, but you can directly face another person’s hatred of your being, simply because of something you have no control over. And you’re wrong if you think those situations don’t affect our mental and emotional well-being. Furthermore, those are the situations that will forever ring ablaze in our memories and stick with us for the rest of our lives.

          All the other issues that you bring up are incredibly important as well. And we do talk about them. You don’t remember all the hullabaloo over Son’s schedule last year? But racism in football isn’t just an individual or football issue, it reflects one of the biggest societal issues of today, and that’s why we talk about it. And talking about it isn’t punishing everyone. I’m willing to bet that most Premier League fans, in particular, believe that we can do things as fans to fight racism in football through education and cooperative action. More and more (normal, not elite) fans are passionately getting involved in the discourse in response to the rise of racist abuse in football and are discussing ways in which to fight it.

          Please feel free to leave your last two cents. I’ve made my case. I got a new article coming out very soon. Stay on the lookout and have a happy new year!

          • Well, just because I have a different opinion than yours does not make it dubious. I hope you’re not trying to rebut my message by marginalizing the messenger instead.

            I would really prefer to stick with general football issues, but your last post compels me to clarify some items:

            1. First of all, I get that racism in general is an important issue to you. And I, too, support reasonable measures to combat racism in football. You would have my full support on that.

            2. However, when you make an assertion that nationalism has fueled recent rise of reported racist acts in football, I find such statement erroneous and irresponsible. Perhaps you thought such popular sentiment would go unchallenged, but not everybody is a lemming. For the record, I am NOT a supporter of nationalism, so that’s not why I disagree with you on the subject matter. I’m just not convinced recent tide of nationalism has any major connection to the reported racist football incidents. I don’t know how old you are, but I’m old enough to tell you unequivocally, racism in football is no where near what it used to be. There were many pitches in Europe where people of color were not welcomed, even in England. Despite what the media is keep shoving down people’s throats, racism in football has not sky-rocketed. Of course, each incident is appalling and needs to be dealt with. But as I stated before, it needs to be rectified through addressing individual perpetrators and responsible clubs.

            3. Your definition of nationalism is only half correct. In its true essence, nationalism represents an ideal that each culture knows what’s best for its own society. And HENCE, respect each other’s sovereignty and does not interfere in other cultures or expect other cultures to influence them in any shape or form. It is a major misconception that Nazi Germany had the true nationalistic mindset. They were Imperialists, because they were exactly opposite of how true nationalists think. They felt superior to others, so they were legitimized to take over and subjugate inferior cultures. Nazi Germany is NOT a textbook definition of nationalism. They were evil deceivers who exploited their own countrymen and wreak havoc to humanity.

            4. You misunderstood my example of Japan. I was strictly referring to Japan and Japan only and not all other countries since the World War II. I picked them, because I thought that was the best example since they do have a very nationalistic government at the moment AND a successful football league. Since we are talking about racism in football, I picked a country that is relevant to our discussion. Why would I pick the Balkans or North Korea, since they don’t have a legitimate football league of their own? Their respective government (if you can even call it as such) don’t represent true nationalistic philosophy anyway. Thank you for the link about the racist football incident in Japan. I was not aware of that. However, I was referring to the Japanese parliament that was elected in Oct of 2017, which myself and many others consider the most nationalistic since the W.W.II. The article was from March of 2014, so I cannot say whether there was any connection between the political mood of the country and the racist incident back then.

            5. You and I are just gonna have to disagree on what represents “injustice.” I believe racist incidents in football are reprehensible acts of individuals and do not amount to social injustice. You believe it represents the microcosm of inherent racism in society, hence the label of injustice is warranted. I believe the word “injustice” is thrown around too loosely. To me, in order to find injustice, there has to be a systematic order in effect that favors certain groups and hurts certain groups. I don’t find that in ANY modern football leagues and charters.

            6. Finally, I did read all your references and took them into my thought process. I also have no agenda against media or academia. I just don’t trust them. I don’t trust them for the same reason as the Nazi Germany. There’s always an exception to the rule, but in my lifetime of professional and non formal encounters, good 80% of people working in the media and academia tend to have that superiority attitude and think they alone know what’s best for the world. Subsequently, they convince themselves that they hold the divine duty to educate, influence, and even manipulate the masses to follow their guidance.

            Happy New Year to you as well and I look forward to your next article!


    • As Joon said, you’re right RC, nationalism does not necessarily equal racism; pride and support of country, patriotism basically, doesn’t mean bigotry. But nationalism often leads to, or is the product of, exceptionalism; different, special, even superior, inherently so. And this is just a few degrees of separation from racism, particularly when there is an imbalance in power, perceived or real.

      Nationalists are not by default racist, but racists are so very often nationalists. And the rise in nationalism globally has fostered an environment, created structure and platforms for racists to voice and legitimize their ideologies, while avoiding the stigma of the racist label. To disregard or make light of this clear correlation is irresponsible, disengenous at worst.

      • Hello DC,

        Actually, nationalism and patriotism are different. For example, I can say confidently that South Korea, Japan, and China all have citizens who are very patriotic to their mother nation. However, among the 3 functional Far East countries, Japan and China are far more nationalistic than South Korea. This is way off topic for this board, and I certainly don’t want to be accused of going rogue. So I’ll just stop there, but I wanted to respond to your post and hope you can extract what I’m trying to relay.

        Happy New Year!

          • Hello,

            Your points are well taken so there’s no need for me to address them. If you were expecting something more substantive response from me, then I would just add::

            1. Nationalism and Patriotism are not essentially the same. Nationalism is the understanding and embracing of nation’s identity while respecting sovereignty. Patriotism is love of the motherland.

            2. Nationalism does not equal racism nor a few degrees of separation from racism as you claimed. Frankly speaking, most racists are simply ignorant people and have no real intelligence to be zealots for anything, including their race. They are just hateful people in nature. But I understand there’s a common misunderstanding of what Nationalism truly stands for. I think it stems from the fact that for most people when they try to conjure up nationalists, they automatically connect to Nazi Germany. I suppose there’s a lot of reasons for that, but the party’s official name of National Socialist German Workers’ Party had a major impact. As I mentioned earlier to another poster, there’s nothing nationalistic about the Nazi party. In fact, they were complete opposite in nature. Nationalists don’t invade other countries as they respect sovereignty, Imperialists do. Otherwise, are socialists a bunch of raving racists and war-mongers as well? Perhaps some are, but that shouldn’t define them as having racist inclination and neither should for nationalists, because racism is not one of their fundamental core values. I don’t even really want to affiliate the Nazis to any political philosophy but just categorize them as evil deceivers and manipulators of people wrecking havoc on humanity. North Korea calls itself People’s Democratic Republic of Korea, but we all know there’s nothing democratic about them.

            3. You stated “…………the rise in nationalism globally has fostered an environment, created structure and platforms for racists to voice and legitimize their ideologies………” This seems to be a trending thought among many people these days. I don’t really have an opinion on such broad subject matter one way or another. That’s beyond my scope of expertise. I was merely expressing my doubt on our other esteemed poster’s assertion that the recent tide of nationalism has fueled the rise of racist incidents in football. All racist incidents in football are troubling, but I really think such reprehensible acts are declining in general and not rising, albeit spikes here and there. A friend of mine went to the London Stadium recently to watch the West Ham match against Tottenham. He said he saw LOTS of Koreans at the venue, obviously to watch Son. If that had occurred back in the 80’s or 90’s at the Upton Park, I can honestly say those poor Koreans would have been accosted physically and at minimum harassed verbally. Things are not perfect and hooliganism is still going on today. But I can say unequivocally – regardless of the rise in nationalism – general racist incidents at football matches are far less today than how they were in the past (at least in England).

          • I can’t lay claim to expertise either, I do try to stay informed. You’re right, nationalism and patriotism are not one and the same, I should have been more clear that nationalism = patriotism w/ a more combative, competitive bent, “Don’t Tread On Me”. I made that loose analogy to pt out that nationalism in and of itself is not necessarily in the same dark vein as racism.

            And the few degrees of separation from racism was in regard to the exceptionalism attached to nationalism; if you believe you’re country is different and special, its just one step to thinking the difference and “special-ness” is “in the blood/genes”, and by extension to think less of those who do not share that biological heritage.

            A last note, nationalism is often entwined w/ asserting superiority of one’s nation over others’, economically/culturally/militarily if necessary. If the conquest of another country is perceived as in the best interest of one’s nation, then it is nationalistically acceptable: imperialism by another name. Everything for the nation-state’s interest.

            I’ll go out on a limb and assume you yourself are a nationalist. I will take at face value your personal stance against racism, it is reassuring. I will also ask that you acknowledge that amongst your ranks are dyed-in-the-wool racists, or at least those who would call themselves fellow nationalists because there exist multiple pts of alignment in views, even if more temperate, principled nationalists such as yourself might not call them brethren.

            I ask that you not minimize this reality, to confront it, weed it out. Otherwise this misperception of nationalism that you speak of will persist, and at best will be considered a deal w/ the devil, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, no matter how unpalatable. And you will continue to be lumped together. If there is a true divide, make it clear, call them out. Thank you for your attn.

  2. Son could have been smarter in that game. I still see this kid improving his game as demonstrated by his 7 assists this year.

    As far as racism goes, Europeans generally tend to be more racists than in the States especially in England, France, and in Italy. Just saying.

  3. First, Happy New Year to all, the Tavern rocks going into 2020.

    A few comments about Son and Rudiger in the Chelsea game. Rudiger took a cheap shot with his right hand at Son’s kidney that caused him to go down. This was the reason Son was pissed and rightfully so. Should Son have kicked upwards while flat on his back? Of course not but the red card and 3 game ban punishment doesn’t fit the crime. VAR was also completely useless in identifying Rudiger’s cheap shot and subsequent flopping.

    And finally, there is no video evidence of any racist gestures from the Spurs fans towards Rudiger. Tottenham have the technology to capture the face of every seat in the stadium and have even hired lip readers to see if they could have been making racist remarks or noises. Nothing has surfaced thus far which makes one wonder, could Rudiger have been mistaken? You would like to give the players the benefit of the doubt but based on his dirty tactics on the pitch moments earlier and lack of video evidence, I don’t have any confidence in Rudiger’s claims.

    • Hey Kevin. Happy new year to you too! Glad you’re looking forward to the Tavern in 2020. We have plenty more material for you in the upcoming year.

      I am currently looking over the Son-Rudiger altercation as I’m writing this reply. Still, I’ve yet to see any indisputable evidence that Rudiger had taken “a cheap shot” at Son’s kidney. He did make contact with the right hand but not enough to discern that he had done it purposely or even at Son’s kidney for that matter. This is the replay I’m watching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-kJ5Xzqpt8

      Maybe you saw something different?

      And either way, it wasn’t as deliberate as Son’s retaliatory act against Rudiger. Also, Rudiger definitely flopped, but this is football. I hate to sound blunt, but his “Hollywood” reaction would’ve been the expected reaction to such contact. I still believe Son was at fault and deserved the red card, but I’m open to evidence that shows that Rudiger had deliberately flailed at Son at any point during the match.

      Also, you’re 100% right about the racist incident. If I didn’t make it clear in the article, I’m making it clear now: there’s no clear-cut evidence that Spurs’ fans had sent any racial abuse Rudiger’s way. He could have mistakenly heard something for all we know. I know one blogger suggested that the “cheat-cheat-cheat” chant after the VAR decision was something Rudiger could have mistaken for “monkey noises.”

      Still, it’s a sad predicament in football if players of certain racial backgrounds mistake chants in a football stadium for racist abuse due to current developments. One source claims that reports of racist abuse in football had risen by 43% last season. If you compound that statistic with increasing media coverage over such abuse, it can be easy to see why certain players could become almost paranoid of becoming victim to it. Maybe Rudiger had an instinctive reaction based on the internalization of media coverage surrounding the rise of racist abuse in football stadiums around the world.

      And I don’t dare say he was lying. There’s no logical explanation behind why he would do that. I will give Rudiger the benefit of the doubt; allegations of racial abuse are not to be taken lightly. However, even if the noises were all a mirage of sound, I believe the situation still prompts discussion about racism in football and what we can do to stop it. And I’m sure we can both agree that there needs to be an end to it in one way or another.

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