Oguchi Onyewu and Racism in Football

Joe GSenior Writer IJune 2, 2009

SAN JOSE, CA - JUNE 2:  Oguchi Onyewu #22 of the United States stands for the National Anthem prior to their international friendly match against China at Spartan Stadium on June 2, 2007 in San Jose, California. The USA defeated China 4-1. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

For many years, I've been a fanatical admirer of Oguchi Onyewu and his play for the US Men's National Team.

I've watched the US win matches thanks to his physical play, his long throws, and his towering presence on set pieces.

Back in 2005, I had the privilege of being present when he shut down Mexican striker Jared Borgetti in a World Cup Qualifier at Crew Stadium in Columbus. Onyewu's performance helped the US to a 2-0 victory, clinching qualification for the 2006 World Cup.

Now, there's another reason to admire this man.

Onyewu claims that he was the target of racial abuse from Belgium and Anderlecht defender Jelle Van Damme and is taking legal action.

The suit alleges that during a recent playoff for the Belgian title between Standard Liege and Anderlecht, Van Damme called Onyewu a "dirty monkey" on more than one occasion during the first leg of the playoff on May 21st.

Onyewu threatened to leave the pitch, but his teammates convinced him to continue the match. Onyewu carried on and enjoyed the sweetest revenge of all when he claimed his second straight league title.

Unfortunately for Van Damme, celebrating the title didn't make Onyewu forget the incident. Jean Louis-DuPont, Onyewu's lawyer, has lodged a complaint with the Brussels prosecutor's office.

"My client is taking a stand and has asked the prosecutor's office to investigate whether Van Damme should face criminal proceedings," Dupont said according to a report by The Guardian.

It's a sad fact that racism is still present in today's game. Even in the modern world, we still hear reports of racial abuse pouring out of the mouths of fans, forcing clubs to play matches behind closed doors as punishment.

Samuel Eto'o has famously been subjected to racist chants at several different grounds in La Liga, nearly walking out on a match against Zaragoza in 2006.

It's refreshing to see a player like Onyewu taking such a confident stand against racism.

He's going one step further than most by seeking to punish his abuser in a court of law. By filing suit, Onyewu is announcing that he does not deserve to be subjected to such treatment, and there will be serious consequences for any guilty party.

Hopefully, other players will be inspired by Onyewu and take their own stand against abuse on the pitch.

Hopefully fans will be inspired by Onyewu and begin taking more responsibility for their actions in the stands.

Racism is an ugly part of humanity and has absolutely no part on the pitch or in the stands. Credit to Onyewu for recognizing this and doing his small part to fix things.