A black player in Austria’s football team should be prepared for the racial slurs that might come his way every now and then.
Living with racism
David Alaba, the Bayern Munich star who scored in the German giants’ 8-0 rout of Hamburger SV at the weekend, looks – from a distance – mentally strong enough to withstand any harmless abuse directed at him.
But even he at times has not been able turn a blind eye when racism has returned, time and again, to rear its ugly head.
In 2012, Austria broadcaster ORF was forced to apologise to Alaba after the defender complained of being racially insulted in a television comedy sketch.
The sketch was featured as part of the “Welcome to Austria” programme, when one of the show’s white hosts was painted black to represent Alaba.
Another host played Austro-Canadian billionaire Frank Stronach.
The presenter playing Stronach called the Alaba character a “black man,” saying, “You probably live in a refugee camp.” He then holds up a banana and asks, “What is this? You probably know this, you’ve always seen them. It’s a banana.”
“Nothing could be further from ORF’s intention than to racially abuse anyone,” ORF head of communications Martin Biedermann said in a statement. “The satire was clearly misunderstood, and we apologise for it because what counts is what people take from it, and not what’s intended.”
This is just but one of several cases of racism black players in Europe have to live with on a regular basis.
Bayern Munich career
Alaba, like many of his fellow black footballers, have however forged successful careers for themselves despite the sad reality of racism.
He was promoted into Bayern’s first team in 2009 and has been with the European giants since, apart from a loan spell at Hoffenheim for the 2010-11 season.
Alaba has been a regular for the dominant German club over the years, playing as a central defender, central midfielder as well as wing back.
These days, Alaba is now well established as a left-back.
Wonderboy of Austrian football
Being your country’s record-holder in any sport is a matter of great pride.
When that record is achieved by someone of foreign origin, the achievement is even more remarkable.
Alaba is the youngest ever man to play for the Austrian national team, having made his international debut as a 17-year-old back in 2009.
At the young age of 24, he has already been capped 50 times by his country.
In 2011 he announced his arrival in style when he was named Austrian Footballer of The Year, the biggest individual accolade he has attained. The feat earned him the nickname “Wunderknaben”, Austrian for “Wonderboy”.
Son of a Prince
Abala has an interesting family background.
His Nigerian father, George Alaba, is a prince in the Ogun State of Nigeria. And oh…his dad also makes a living as a rapper and DJ!
George Alaba met David’s mother, Gina, in Austria, where the boy and his sister were both born. Gina had emigrated to Austria from her native Philippines to work as a nurse.
While he is immensely proud to represent the land of his birth, Austria, Alaba’s first preference was Nigeria – his dad’s homeland.
He claims he was snubbed by the Nigerian Football Association (NFA) when he offered to represent the country at senior level.
”I wanted to play for Nigeria but I must confess that there was no formal approach for me. A scout actually discussed that with me. I was excited because of my dad, he was a fan of Sunday Oliseh when Oliseh played for FC Koln. As a kid, I loved to watch Victor Agali in the jersey of Hansa Rostock,” he once told an Austrian news organisation.
Alaba further claimed he was the NFA only wanted “home-grown” talent.
It’s certainly Nigeria’s loss, and Austria’s gain.