Former World Cup winner Lilian Thuram has told the BBC’s World Service that racists and hooligans should “know you are in danger”.
Thuram is thought to be the first professional footballer in France to speak publicly about the matter, and expressed concern that solidarity for black players is lacking among those in the darker hues.
The former Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Chelsea defender led an impressive revolution when he was at Old Trafford and became the first black player to appear in the English Premier League for 14 years.
However, Thuram said that even today, “there is not enough understanding among black players”.
He told the BBC: “These are people who respect soccer… even when they disrespect us. They don’t dare speak or do anything against us. For me, this is so sad. I feel that, yes, there is solidarity but now with black players there is no solidarity with black spectators.
“Maybe it’s because the black people who play are isolated and not as involved with the fans as other players are. They have their training or their club, but not with the fans. This is something that’s so sad and, to me, something that should be changed.”
Thuram also said he was not sure why black players generally were so reluctant to speak out. “What is your duty? I think that the black people have a duty to be visible in the stands and to support other black players. Their duty is to support other black players, not to play – that’s a different subject,” he said.
He suggested that football fans should be held to account too, but argued that he himself felt guilty that his career was destroyed after he left PSG. Thuram made the most expensive transfer of all time – €10.7m – in 1999 to Juventus, and suffered racism on the pitch, once being spat at by a PSG fan.
“It’s a shame that this happened but I think it’s proof that it’s wrong,” he said. “If I go today and say these things today, I would be judged very harshly.”
He added: “I’m not an angel … and I know that at this moment many black footballers are not going public. Maybe it’s because we are not so powerful. What are we? We’re black people.”