Rhian Brewster is a 17 year old footballer for Liverpool FC. This season he burst onto the scene in the FIFA U-17 World Cup in India, winning the competitions Golden Boot Award with an impressive 8 goals, with two successive hat-tricks against Brazil and the USA. Rhian's short career so far has seemed liked a dream to some and honestly speaking he has the world at his feet and the ability to become a star in the English league and for the national team. But this is a different story. At the end of 2017 Rhian decided to speak out against the abuse, racial abuse, he has suffered already in his career. He hopes that somebody higher up in the world of football will listen to his cry for help, but thinking of recent events I believe he has every right to be skeptical of the 'higher ups'. FIFA handing the World Cup to Russia, a very well known homophobic and racist country and power, is an early warning sign. There have been numerous cases of players being abused in Russia, Yaya Toure comes to mind instantly, if you're in the 'Football Loop' you'll know the name. Toure, 34, has been abused many times while playing away in Russia for Manchester City. On the 13th January, very recently, Spartak Moscow were fined for a racist tweet, which read;
"see how the chocolates melt in the sun"
With a video attached showing black players warming up in sunny conditions. There have been numerous accounts of players and the public being racially abused, it does not take a long google search to find this out. Other story of abuse comes from Rhian Brewster. While playing for Liverpool in the UEFA Champions Cup, for his age level, he has been called the N-word twice. One in a game against Sevilla and in a game against, you guessed it, Spartak Moscow. Rhian describes the Moscow situation to the guardian;
“I got fouled,” Brewster says. “I was on the floor and I had the ball in my hands. One of their players started saying stuff in Russian to the ref. I said: ‘It’s a foul, man, what you playing at?’ I was still sitting down at this stage. Then their player leaned over me, right down to my face and said: ‘Suck my dick, you nigger, you negro.’
“I jumped to my feet and the ref came running over because obviously he realised something had been said. He [the referee] said to me he couldn’t do anything because he hadn’t heard it and ‘the only thing I can do is report it’. I said: ‘Come on, then – let’s go and report it.’ He started doing something else and I said: ‘No, now.’ We went over to the fourth official and told him. I told Steven [Gerrard] what had happened and we made a complaint there.” (Read the Guardians interview here)
Brewster did not want to complain but obvious he had to, it was just if someone did anything about it that was the issue. Another incident came in May, in the UEFA Youth European Championships. While on England duty Rhian ran into the box and collided with the keeper, hurting him accidentally, it happens it's sports. However, this angered on the Ukraine players, Rhian apologized and thought it was left there. Later in the match there was an incident against the same outfield player; "It was a bad challenge and I pushed him. We got into an argument and he called me a nigger.”
The Sevilla issue came following the Moscow incident. Liverpool were at home against Sevilla, the ball came down the left, Brewster gave chase. A Sevilla player attempted to block Brewster's run and Brewster grabbed his shoulder and he felt [the player]. The player in question came back to Brewster and 'said something in Spanish', Brewster says, 'we were arguing and then he said it.' The infamous N-Word. I'll let Rhian describe his reaction; “Yeah, and I’ve reacted. I was going to walk off the pitch and go straight down the tunnel, I was that angry. Steven [Gerrard] grabbed me and said: ‘What’s happened?’ Obviously he realised something was wrong and he put his arm round me. I told them [Liverpool’s coaching staff] and they told the fourth official. But the fourth official told the ref their player had been accused of bullying. He [the referee] went to the player to say he had been accused of bullying and the player looked like he didn’t know what was happening.” Sevilla obvious deny any wrong doing and UEFA closed the case with lack of evidence. Brewster knows there is something wrong with the system, this is only one of numerous cases in his short career as a footballer, most footballers would stay quiet, but Brewster is taking the fight forward.
Brewster isn't the only one to be abused, he has seen the abuse first hand, one event including Russia's Spartak Moscow, once again and the other against Spain in the Final, I'll let Rhian and the Guardian describe.
"Two weeks later, Liverpool had another game in the same competition, this time flying to Russia to play Spartak Moscow, and Brewster was being substituted when his replacement, the Nigeria-born Bobby Adekanye, aged 18, ran on to monkey chants from the crowd.
[The Spanish players] were telling us to win respectfully. I started laughing. I said: ‘How can you tell us to win respectfully when one of your players has been racist? What about your team-mate being respectful to us?'
Brewster’s first thought was to support his team-mate “because I know how he feels and I didn’t want him to think he was on his own”. Uefa subsequently ordered Spartak to close 500 seats of their academy stadium for the next match and display a banner – “Equal Game” – in that section of the ground. But was that enough? “It’s not really a punishment, is it?” Brewster says. “It was nothing really, a slap on the wrist. They weren’t even using those seats. It would be like us being asked to close 500 seats at Prenton Park in a stand that was already empty. It should have been more severe – a whole stadium ban.”
As for the incident in the World Cup final, that relates to Morgan Gibbs-White, a 17-year-old from Wolverhampton Wanderers, and maybe explains why there were a number of flashpoints later in the match. “Something happened in the box,” Brewster says. “As Morgan was running away, he [a Spain player] has called him a monkey. It was a goal-kick and I was getting into position. ‘Morgan,’ I said, ‘did you hear that?’ He said: ‘Yeah, yeah, I thought I was the only one.’”
In the final minutes of that 5-2 victory, Brewster became embroiled in an argument with one of his opponents. “They were telling us to win respectfully. I started laughing. I said: ‘How can you tell us to win respectfully when one of your players has been racist? What about your team-mate being respectful to us?’”
Rhian Brewster is a 17 year old footballer. Yet he's experienced so much hatred just for the colour of his skin. How? We, humanity have supposed to have risen above this, but with issues like Brexit, Trump and more in the recent years, we have taken 20 steps backward. I commend Rhian, personally, for coming out and fighting this fucked system. Hopefully something changes.
Thanks for reading as always!