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'Go back to your cotton fields' - Kerry An Ghaeltacht footballer on experience with racism

Franz Sauerland is the latest athlete to speak out.

Sauerland in action for P.S. Chorcha Dhuibhne.
Sauerland in action for P.S. Chorcha Dhuibhne.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

FORMER KERRY MINOR footballer Franz Sauerland is the latest athlete to discuss his experience with racism in Ireland.

The An Ghaeltacht player adds his voice to those who spoke out in the wake of George Floyd’s death in America, including fellow Kingdom GAA star, Stefan Okunbor.

Okunbor detailed his experience with racist abuse both on and off the football pitch in a column for The42 last week.

Sauerland was speaking to the RTÉ’s Seán Mac an tSítigh when he was asked about the kind of abuse he received on the field.

“People ask me: ‘What are you doing in this country? Why are you playing this sport? Go back to your own country,’ says Sauerland, whose mother is from Ghana. His father is from Germany.

The worst insult I ever heard was: ‘Go back to your cotton fields!’ That upset me.

“I feel it’s just completely wrong. It upsets me when I hear those things. But I have fantastic team-mates who stand up for me and support whenever it happens.”

The 19-year-old Sauerland also spoke about this incident on the RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta programme An Saol ó Dheas. He explained that he did not make a complaint at the time but that the referee had been informed of what happened and the player in question received a ban for the remark.

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He also reflected on the difficulties he faced as a black person growing up in Ireland.

“It’s not so hard now because I’m grown up, but it was very hard about 10 years ago as a boy, looking around and realising that I was the only black person here in this area, other than my own family.

“It was challenging because I was different. I always felt I had to work twice as hard as my friends, even on the football field, to be better than everyone, so that they’d respect me, so that they would see me as equal, a good player, that they would look up to me and all that.”

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