Former Roma and current Chelsea defender Antonio Rüdiger recounted the racist abuse he received from Lazio supporters during the Derby della Capitale in 2017.
The German international penned a lengthy account of the incident today in The Players’ Tribune, where he also discussed his lifelong fight against racism.
“They were shouting, ‘F*** you, go eat a banana.’ Every time I touched the ball, they would make monkey noises. It was not just a few people. It was a big section of the Lazio fans during the 2017 Derby della Capitale,” wrote Rüdiger.
“This was not the first racist abuse that I had experienced, but it was the worst. It was real hatred. You know it when you see it in their eyes.”
“In the moment, I did not react. I did not walk off the pitch. I did not want to give them that kind of power. But inside, I don’t care how strong you are, if you are a human being with a beating heart, you are marked by it forever.”
He continued, “You know, I think very often about Daniele De Rossi. He came to me after the Lazio match and he said something that I don’t think I had ever heard before.”
“I was still very emotional, very angry. De Rossi sat down next to me and said, ‘Toni, I know I will never feel the same as you. But let me understand your pain. What is going on inside your head?’ He did not tweet. He did not post a black square. He cared.”
A lot of people in football say things publicly, but they never really come to you personally. De Rossi really wanted to know how I felt. This guy was a club icon. A legend. When I came into the dressing room for the first time, just seeing him made me feel like I was a nervous little kid.
“But in my toughest moment, De Rossi cared about me as a human being. He wanted to understand.”
“Am I making some people uncomfortable talking like this? Maybe, but I know that the whole world is going to be watching the Champions League final this weekend, and I want to use my voice to talk about something real.”