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Sochaux’s Ryad Boudebouz and how to handle fan racism


Sochaux’ Algerian midfielder Ryad Boudebouz runs with the ball during the French L1 football match Sochaux (FCSM) vs Montpellier (MHSC) on September 1, 2012, at the August Bonal Stadium in Montbeliard, eastern France. AFP PHOTO / SEBASTIEN BOZON (Photo credit should read SEBASTIEN BOZON/AFP/GettyImages)

AFP/Getty Images

United States’ fans didn’t get to see him at the 2010 World Cup, but Algerian attacker Ryad Boudebouz was there as a 20-year-old, looking on as Landon Donovan vaulted the States to the top of Group C. At the time he was regarded as one of the more promising young talents in France, a reputation he has reinforced over the last two seasons. Playing almost exclusively from a wide position, the FC Sochaux attacker has posted 14 goals since the beginning of the 2010-11 season, even if his creativity more refined than his finishing.

This summer, that skillset drew the attention of one of France’s biggest clubs, Olympique Marseille, with a transfer breaking down a fee could not be agreed. That dalliance with a logical, to-be-expected career move hasn’t sat well with Sochaux’s fans, with supporters displaying anti-Boudebouz signage at the team’s Sept. 1 match versus Montpellier. More alarming, the banners were accompanied by with calls of “dirty arab.”

We’ll get to the racism in a second. First: How smart is it for Sochaux fans, having already seen one of their best players move this summer (Marvin Martin to Lille), to be insulting one of their few particularly talented players? Especially considering he was so close to moving? The club has stumbled mightily out of the gate (losing four of four), but opening the front door and shoving your best player out might be page one of What Not To Do When Your Club Is Struggling. Though Boudebouz had been very positive about staying with Sochaux in the wake of his failed move, you couldn’t blame the now-20-year-old for circling Jan. 1 (the opening of the winter transfer window) on his calendar.

To his credit, though, Boudebouz is handling the incident exactly as you’d want: With dismissive abhorrence. Here’s the Google translate machine (my French isn’t that good) on the young Algerian’s reaction, quote via L’Equipe:

“It comes from a minority of morons ... They are not real fans of FC Sochaux, but the poor [lost guys] that have nothing to do in football stadiums. I know the difference between the supporters of the club who can express dissatisfaction with the performance of one of their players, and bad people who desecrate [with] racial slurs.”

Delivered with the perfection. He immediately segregated the offenders from the body of Sochaux support. He called them what they are (morons) and acknowledged he’s capable of distinguishing between their hate and honest frustration with the clubs’ struggles. There’s no hyperbole here, nor are there appeals to a larger, potentially justifiable causes. Implied in Boudebouz’s response: It’s not worth our time.

In some places, the slurs Boudebouz heard would have been a national scandal. True, L’Equipe (big, national, sports daily) is reporting on this, but it’s not something that’s defining the re-start of Ligue 1 action. It’s being covered for what it is: Some idiots doing something disgusting, reminding us racism needs to stay on our radars.