EPL

Wijnaldum vows to walk off and stay off pitch after admitting Moreira abuse 'really hurt me'

By Sports Desk November 18, 2019

Liverpool and Netherlands star Georginio Wijnaldum believes the only option in the face of racist abuse in a football match would be to walk off the pitch and not return.

Wijnaldum was speaking after Excelsior player Ahmad Mendes Moreira suffered racist chanting in the 3-3 draw with Den Bosch in the Dutch second division on Sunday.

Moreira, supported by team-mates, left the pitch 30 minutes in after being subjected to abuse, with the referee then calling a temporary halt to the match.

The player scored after the game resumed and celebrated by cupping his hands to his ears in front of Den Bosch fans, leading the club's coach Erik van der Ven to brand Moreira a "pathetic little man" for trying to goad his side's supporters.

Den Bosch released a statement to apologise to Moreira if he felt "ill-treated", while the Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB) promised to investigate to identify the perpetrators.

For Wijnaldum, seeing a match in his homeland marred by racist abuse – as well as Nazi salutes, which he says could be seen in the stands – served only to show how much work must be done by politicians to combat such problems.

The 29-year-old, who also described the level of Den Bosch's response as "despicable", says the solution must be for players to leave the pitch following abuse and refuse to resume the match.

"It really hit me on a personal level," Wijnaldum told reporters on Monday ahead of Netherlands' final Euro 2020 qualifier against Estonia in Amsterdam.

"I never expected anything like this to happen in the Netherlands. I'm really shocked. It did happen, unfortunately, and the way people have talked about the incident really hurt me.

"It's a problem in society. As a player, you can't really change anything about it. But I still think that players should try and support each other. It's a problem in society and a problem that should be solved by our politicians.

"I hope that there will be severe punishments. This really can't happen again. It's not just the racism to the player from Excelsior, but I also saw someone doing the Nazi salute in the stands. When I saw that, I thought, 'What is wrong with you if you do something like that?'.

"Our ancestors fought for us so we can live freely. If people still perform the Nazi salute, that's utterly disrespectful. That just can't happen. We can't allow that in the Netherlands. That's what I think. There have to be severe punishments.

"I think the KNVB did well with their statement, saying that they will look into the matter and see what happened. But I think it's really despicable what Den Bosch did. I might not be allowed to say things like that, but I don't care anymore.

"I think we need to see very high fines. I heard that they want to install cameras to find out who the culprits are. The punishments need to be so severe that nobody even thinks of doing something like this ever again. We want to play football to enjoy ourselves, we want to entertain our supporters. We don't want to see things like this happening."

Netherlands head coach Ronald Koeman interjected to say he would call for his players to walk off the pitch if such an incident were repeated.

"Someone has to be the first," he said. "We all think about it but, in the end, nobody ever acts on it. Everybody seems to avoid the subject instead of doing something about it."

Wijnaldum said the match between Den Bosch and Excelsior should not have continued after the abuse, saying players "need to stay away" after walking off.

"You shouldn't come back on the pitch. What is the point in coming back? What has changed? Everything just stays the same."

When asked what he would do if it happened in an international match, Wijnaldum replied: "I walk off the pitch. I'm going for sure. I'll never accept that. 

"We talked about it with our guys. Look at our squad. We are one. We don't look at skin colour. We play for the Dutch team, we play for this shirt, we play for the people. We play so we can entertain the people; we play so we can be at a big tournament such as the Euros again.

"We are so happy about qualifying and then this happens a day later. It's so surreal because those people that did this will be cheering for us if we perform well at the Euros."

Koeman says not enough strong action is being taken by national authorities, adding: "We are way too soft in the Netherlands. Everybody always says that we live in such a safe country. I don't think we do."

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