Paris: Former French footballer Lilian Thuram said on Thursday that black people are viewed as stupid by the football world, identifying it as a reason for the scarcity of non-white coaches in top European leagues. The former defender said the despicable racial stereotypes are a hindrance in the emergence of black football coaches.
“It is quite normal that there are lots of black people who are players because they can be top athletes, they have the physical capability. But to be a coach you need intelligence and discipline,” Thuram was quoted as saying by French sports newspaper L’Equipe.
“It is clear that society has that opinion. Since I was a child I was told ‘to be a coach you need to be able to come up with tactics’. There are people who doubt what black people can do.”
Thuram, the most capped player for France, won the World Cup and European Championships with the national team and achieved success at club level with European powerhouses Monaco, Parma, Juventus and FC Barcelona.
“On the field, all is well. But the rest – coaches, executives, etc – it’s more complicated because society has these strong prejudices. When people doubt the intelligence of an ethnicity, it makes some positions unavailable,” he added.
Thuram said that black players are generally discouraged to take up coaching after hanging up their boots. “If you’re a black player or of North African ethnicity, you’re not stupid. If you see that there are not many coaches who are like you, you’re not going to be encouraged down that path,” he said.
“You’re definitely going to have trouble if you do want to go down that path, though. From the start, you’re discouraged. It takes references from others to make it possible, then you can project yourself.” Thuram, who didn’t pursue coaching after retiring from the game, said he knew managing a team was not the job for him.
“I would have been an awful coach. I would not have been forgiving at all, especially with the big name players,” Thuram said. Thuram said he never believed in the stereotype that was bestowed on black footballers.
“When I was younger, it was said that black players couldn’t play in defence – they were strong but they still made mistakes,” the former FC Barcelona defender said.
“Or goalkeepers – ‘black goalkeepers are super strong and agile but they have no concentration’, that’s what people thought. There are a lot of non-white players, but how can it be explained that on the benches there are still not many non-white coaches? It’s a problem and it must change.”
The 43-year-old said though initiatives are being taken to correct the disparity but there is scope for a lot of improvement.
“Initiatives to guarantee non-white coaches a chance at being interviewed for vacant jobs are a step in the right direction. But there is still an awful lot of work to do to get to parity between races.”