ARMAND GNANDUILLET has spoken about the vile racist abuse he received from ‘stupid human beings’ as a young player in France.
And the Hearts striker has called for open dialogue and better education in order to curb the alarming rise in players being targeted due to the colour of their skin, particularly on social media.
Gnanduillet — born in the French city of Angers, of Ivorian descent — emerged through the youth ranks at Le Havre and AS Poissy and says the disgusting barbs he was forced to endure were symptomatic of wider problems in his country.
While the towering marksman prevailed, going on to carve out a solid professional career with the likes of Chesterfield, Leyton Orient and Blackpool, he is acutely aware that such incidents are enough to kill the football dreams of others.
He said: “Unfortunately, yes, I’ve been abused because of my skin colour. I was young at the time.
“I’m French and in France you’ve got a lot of people like that, so when it happened my first reaction was to fight because I wasn’t happy.
“When I grew up I realised you can’t always have a fight with people like that because they are stupid. I was more sad for them than anything else.
“Of course it hurt because I didn’t really understand why they were doing it but, as I said, there are a lot of stupid human beings.
“It’s important to talk about this because it’s something that shouldn’t be allowed and it can break people.
“If you don’t like someone, it should be the person not because of his skin colour.”
An increasingly bright spotlight is now being shone on the abuse being endured by BAME players, particularly in England.
In recent weeks alone, Axel Tuanzebe, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Reece James, Wilfried Zaha, Patrick van Aanholt, David McGoldrick and Yan Dhanda have all been subjected to deplorable attacks.
It prompted ‘English football’ — including Richard Masters, CEO of the Premier League, Mark Bullingham, CEO of the English Football Association and Trevor Birch, the CEO of the English Football League — to pen an open letter to Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, and Mark Zuckerberg, the founder, chairman and CEO of Facebook calling for action.
Gnanduillet added: “Clearly they [football authorities] can do more by talking and educating from a young age.
DO NOT GIVE UP
“Today, with social media and everything, you can pass positive messages to everyone in football too.”
In an interview with Unify UK, whose mission statement is to ‘stamp out racism and encourage others to speak out’, Gnanduillet also had a message for any footballer who had endured racial abuse.
He added: “Be mentally strong and do not give up. Enjoy football because the time goes quick. And always open your mouth if someone abuses you.”