Nigerian-born England rugby national team star, Maro Itoje has added his voice to the raging scourge racism is enacting on global sports, with a view that the anomaly requires more decisive, impactful and forceful action from officials.
Speaking against the backdrop of chaotic racist chants from Bulgarian football fans during Monday’s European Championship qualifier against England in Sofia, Itoje reasoned that action against colour discrimination has not receive the force is deserves.
The Saracens man, who is currently part of England’s 2019 Rugby World Cup squad in Japan, said further that the problem of racism is endemic and there is a lot of work that has to be done if it is to be wiped out, adding that football’s governing bodies in various countries across the world all need to take the issue more seriously.
Itoje was speaking after The Three Lions’ 6-0 Euro 2020 qualifying win in Bulgaria on Monday was overshadowed by racist abuse aimed at England players by spectators, which led to the match twice being halted in the first half.
Although he admits his focus is fully on England’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final against Australia on Saturday, Itoje took time out to speak on the football team’s experience in Sofia, and told Sky Sports News that he was very concerned by the situation.
“It is quite disgraceful, to be honest. For players who are going out there representing England, for them to have to witness that kind of abuse and discrimination, is just unacceptable. I think more needs to be done, to curb that kind of behaviour,
“I read something the other day, where a Bulgarian journalist started arguing with (England manager) Gareth Southgate about whether the players received any discrimination or not – I think that shows how endemic the problem is.
“It is a big issue. It is going to need a lot of re-educating, probably some harsher punishments as well. The punishment needs to be more severe, I think the governing bodies need to take this issue seriously,” Itoje submitted.