NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 18:31
Politics and sport: they are two completely different worlds, which seem increasingly intertwined in recent years. Yesterday football club Excelsior announced that Redouan el Yaakoubi is no longer captain due to his refusal to put on the OneLove band.
El Yaakoubi told sports channel ESPN earlier that he prefers to wear the band with ‘respect’ on it: “I think respect for everyone is important, we must respect each other’s norms and values”. Excelsior then stripped him of the captain’s armband, partly because of “noise and misunderstanding” and a situation “that is not desirable for both”.
Excelsior took a different attitude to this than, for example, Feyenoord, when Feyenoord captain Kökcu refused to wear the OneLove band; Kökcu ‘just’ remained captain.
‘Political statements are in’
Football association KNVB created the OneLove band as a symbol for connection, and against racism and discrimination. The rainbow colors represent lhbti acceptance. But the band therefore causes discomfort for some players.
In the sports world, this trend can be seen more broadly, with athletes being reluctant to speak out for certain political statements if they are rigged by an umbrella sports organization.
For example, Max Verstappen refused to kneel in 2020 for the #WeRaceAsOne initiative, which spoke out against racism and discrimination. During a press conference, he said that everyone should be able to express themselves in their own way. Political statements within the sport no longer seem limited to the individual beliefs of the athletes themselves.
This is recognized by Cees Wijburg, who provides media training to football clubs and professionals in the industry. “These days there is a trend of sports organizations that express themselves politically and sometimes also oblige their players to do so. Excelsior wants to radiate unity and show solidarity, because other clubs do it too. Typical Dutch herd behavior.”
We have to stop the nagging, the eternal nagging.
Cees Wijburg, media trainer for professional football clubs
It should be possible for football clubs to support such actions, says Wijburg. But he “definitely” disagrees with the removal of the captain’s armband from El Yaakoubi. “Support for such an action must come from your heart and experience. The OneLove band has nothing to do with football and that captain’s armband does. I think it’s a bad thing to take it away.”
For this reason, according to Wijburg, football clubs should not oblige political statements to their players. “We have to stop the bashing, the eternal bashing. If people don’t want to participate in that, it doesn’t make them hateful. It’s just their own opinion.”
Wijburg also finds the negative reactions to El Yaakoubi’s choice dangerous: “We are very busy with condemning and canceling. To immediately dismiss someone as homophobic. Those are very serious allegations. That is framing, which is also hip and modern these days .”
Not all reactions are critical of the footballer. Several people online express support for his choice. This includes influencer and radio DJ Youssef Koukouh. Yesterday he criticized Excelsior’s decision on his social media channels, where more than 300,000 people follow him.
According to Wijburg, the fact that Excelsior is taking the captain’s armband from El Yaakoubi is mainly about ‘loss of face’ for the club. He refers to this as the so-called cancel culture. “Nowadays we are forced to participate in all sorts of things. And if you don’t, you will be cancelled.”
“Clubs are also afraid of that,” adds Koukouh. “They think ‘our figurehead, our captain, do not support this, then we are afraid that people will think that our club is homophobic.’
‘You have to separate politics and football’
According to Koukouh, football and politics should be kept separate. “When it comes to El Yaakoubi, but also about Verstappen, I say: that is your right. You don’t have to prove to the outside world what you stand for. At the local football club, where I volunteer, there is no politics either. That ruins the game.”
Like Wijburg, he believes that discrimination and racism should remain open for discussion. “But you should not go too far. It is absolutely not only people who can identify with his norms and values, or only Muslims or Moroccans who support El Yaakoubi. You will notice that after my statement yesterday. A lot of people think this .”
Numerous activists and human rights organizations are happy with the introduction of the OneLove band and Excelsior’s steadfastness in this regard. The club speaks so firmly against discrimination and homophobia in the football world, they think.