Sunday 30 July 2023, 08:00

Sami Khedira: "The world – and football – is for everybody”

Discrimination – in all its possible forms and expressions – is one of the most common forms of human rights abuse, affecting millions of people all over the world.

Football at all levels of the game, and in all corners of the world, has been experiencing a rise in discriminatory behaviour targeted at players both inside stadiums, and online.

“We are in 2023 and it’s really sad that we still have to talk about discrimination and all the other stuff that we don’t need in our world,” stresses 2014 FIFA World Cup winner Sami Khedira. The former Germany, Real Madrid and Juventus midfielder witnessed numerous cases during his 15-year professional career.

“I saw many of my teammates affected by it. Especially the black players, they got it in the stadium, and they got booed, with these monkey noises and all this stupid stuff”, says Khedira who has a German mother and a Tunisian father. “Personally, I haven’t been affected too much by it. Sometimes, there are stupid guys that would say: ‘You are not German. Why are you playing for the national team?’, but I don’t care about that, because it’s one person out of 80 million people.”

Last month, FIFA, in partnership with several United Nations agencies announced that it will use the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ to highlight a range of social causes. In addition, the tournament also features activations for FIFA’s long-term campaign #NoDiscrimination which aims to direct action to tackle all forms of discrimination, including racism, in society.

Khedira emphasizes the importance of taking responsibility as a collective. “Football especially unites a lot of people, a lot of religions and different beliefs,” he says. “So, I believe that we can fight against this mindset, that we have our voice, and we can stand up to it, showing the minority of people who oppose change that we are stronger than them, so that discrimination doesn’t take place in football all over the world.”

Sami Khedira of Germany and Loic Remy of France shake hands

Respecting diversity and embracing all cultures with an open mind, is the best way to combat discrimination, says Khedira. “It doesn’t matter if you are black, if you are white, if you are a Muslim, or if you are [of] any other religion. Football is just a game. We must respect each other. That is, I think, the most important message. “Also in our society, we must respect other people: how they live and how they love. We still have to be loud, and still show people that football can unite, and that the world – and football – is for everybody.”