Ex-Ghana star Tony Baffoe speaks on racism

Published on: 02 March 2011

Germany-born ex-Ghana international Anthony Baffoe speaks to FIFA.com about his experiences with racism as he helped change the perception of black players in the Bundesliga.

What is, according to you, discrimination?

Anthony Baffoe: Discrimination has a lot to do with ignorance and non-acceptance. For me, as a young kid growing up in Germany, I experienced discrimination with my own flesh. Today, in 2011, a lot of things have improved, but there's still a long way to go for us to say there is only one race, and that's the human race. The world is changing step by step, and when we are all equal, then we will be able to talk about one human nature.

Can you explain how those early issues of discrimination in your life changed how you were or had an impact on you?

I was born in 1965, and it seemed in the 70s, 80s and maybe into the 90s, if you looked a bit different people would stare at you. Today, if somebody has a different colour or different look, people don't stare at them like before. The world has opened up. I remember after the TV series Roots and people called us 'Kunta Kinte' or 'Shaka Zulu' and they looked down on us. But, for me, my weapon was always the language. I am quite fluent in several languages, including German. So I knew how to defend myself.

As you became a player, did that discrimination give you a determination to prove people wrong?

The word 'proof' that you mention is very important, and also being good at sports helped me to cross barriers. But, you know, playing in villages for the club from where I grew up in Bad Godesberg, often people would make monkey noises or throw bananas at you right in the stadium. There were not a lot of black players, so it was a tough time, but we overcame it.

Were there other black players at the time in the Bundesliga, and was that important?

Yeah, one of the first was Ibrahim Sunday, who played way back in the 70s. And Julio Baylon, then Tony Yeboah and more into the 80s, but I was one of the first well-recognised black players. I remember very well, I think it was in 1991, that myself, Tony Yeboah and Souleymane Sane wrote an open letter about racism intentionally to the Bild Zeitung. And from there on, there was some change: there were flags for us and supporters started to come out against racism and things were generally getting better.

Do you think that is the key: to stand up to the discrimination?

Yeah, definitely. And I would say that for me, it was important that I had those language skills, so even if I was a rebel it was for a good cause. And it was also important that I was very proud of where I came from, and my heritage and colour, and I was not afraid to show that to the people around me. And, for instance, when Samuel Eto'o suffered insults in Spain and tried to walk off the pitch, that was a very important signal that he sent to the entire world. I think there could have been more work done with him off the field after that, to show solidarity.

And what about football's roll in discrimination and in fighting those ideas?

FIFA has done a good job at promoting Anti-Discrimination Days and also making it a major issue at World Cups. There are great ideas there, and the number of players as ambassadors are good, and there are other groups, like FARE [Football Against Racism in Europe], Kick-Out Racism and FIFPro, the player's organisation. There are a lot of players with big names, not only black players, but European players, white players, that are also championing the cause against racism, and that is a very positive signal. I do think that we do not have enough black managers, so we have to continue to work on making changes.

You played all over the world in different places – is that important for people of different backgrounds to take those chances?

I must always come back to the language barrier. A lot of players that go abroad, and in the beginning for some black players in Germany, they couldn't understand what people were saying about them. There were people making jokes about them, and everyone around them was laughing, but they didn't understand. Making jokes about heritage and colour is unacceptable, so those were the things that I fought against because I could understand them. So I think it's important for black players to stand up against these things and not wait for white people to solve them. It's not only racism, like black and white, but it's also ethnic, like in Ghana, and those are the kinds of things that must stop. It's becoming a global world, and I am very happy about that.

Last year was talked about as the 'Year of Africa' in terms of football, and the world was very focused on South Africa because of the Fifa World Cup. What were your conclusions about it and do you think the world's perspectives on the continent were changed?

When Africa got the bid, there were many people who were sceptical. When the incident with violence happened to the Togo team [in Angola at the Caf Africa Cup of Nations], people said 'you can never host the World Cup in South Africa', but meanwhile, the two countries don't share a border at all, so what do they have to do with each other? And then when there's bomb attacks in Spain and London, there were no calls like that about moving the Olympics in Greece or other things. But against all of the scepticism, we showed the whole world that we can do it. At South Africa 2010, the slogan was 'Ke Nako', which means 'It is time.' And that was true, it was our time, and I am very very happy about how it went, and I thank God that we proved the world wrong.

Source: Fifa.com


  • black pope
    says: 8 years ago
    this baffoe guy always talk sense, bro i salute u keep on doing what u doing.
    says: 8 years ago
    That's true black pope whenever he talk there's sence in it dat why i like him.long live BAFFOE.
  • Basaven
    says: 8 years ago
    Great piece from Baffoe
  • black man
    says: 8 years ago
    can't you guys see, his world-view is different from those of you who were born in africa....so cause he always talk sense.those ignorance african whom worship white-people like gods should take a lesson from him....
  • Musah Fifa
    says: 8 years ago
    Thanks brother Tony Baffoe, he's telling us to get education that is the kye of the Racism, because when you have the education then you have finished everything,the whitees will respect you by your education, and they will fear you, because you can do what so ever they can do, and you can speak to them and let them know the difference, not the colour, the colour is just like green and blue, or any other colour, but if you don't have education then how can you let them know the difference? so my brothers we should have education, the white man will respect you only if you have education
  • Abrantie - In Da House
    says: 8 years ago
    You are damn right blacl man!! It is very difficult to talk the africans to change their perspective of the world. Ghanaians who have not traveled outside before worship whites like jesus has come down unto the earth. They refuse to talk on issues, and rather insult anyone who does that as being too known. The world is moving forward and will not wait for such people. Its unfortunate there are so many of them in Africa, which means, the world might move forward and leave afica behind. Its hard time africans stood up and move with the world of the Information Technology...asians have joined the bus brothers, let us not wait for too long. Stop insulting eachother here, make constructive contributions to this forum, join hands and brains together, don't envy eachother and praise the white man ...Let join the bus 2gether. Peace and Love!!
  • Maxwell Johnson
    says: 8 years ago
    Baffoe is my ROLE MODEL,and i respect him a lot too.
  • yeah wrong
    says: 8 years ago
    Don't use black, ur r human. not blackman
  • Peedi Crack
    says: 8 years ago
    Very interesting article!!...and blackman and Abrantie - In The House took some of the comments outta my mouth!!...very well said fellas!!...Education strongly reduces the power of ignorance, so folks, lets all get educated in whatever we are pursuing!!...education also brings togetherness, and as a collective whole, great ideas and thinkers can be discovered!!
  • Prince Awuku, china.
    says: 8 years ago
    i salute you, Tony. you said it all. more grease to your elbow. i think racism is disappearing now since the world is globalising. but in some of the Asia countries are still considering the race. i dont want to mention. God bless Afric
  • naa
    says: 8 years ago
    hmm i hope most ghanains in germany here read this artikle to know how important it is to learn the language, people have taken the language forgranted and their rights are allways tramppled upon even in bus or in train blacks are refused seats cos they cannot tell the person sitting there to push to the other side