European soccer’s racism problems hit close to home Tuesday for one U.S. soccer star, with AZ striker Jozy Altidore subjected to monkey chants and other race-based derision during today’s KNVB Cup match at second-tier Den Bosch.
“I’m deeply hurt by these people,” Den Bosch’s director told reporters at De Vliert stadium in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. “I’m ashamed of what just happened. I have no words for it.”
The abuse, which later escalated to fans throwing objects onto the field, forced officials to momentarily stop the match in the second half. Altidore continued playing and notched a goal and an assist in AZ’s 5-0 victory.
“It is terribly sad that this can happen for those involved and for lovers of football in the Netherlands,” former U.S. international Earnie Stewart told a television audience at halftime. Stewart is AZ’s director of football.
Two times in the second half the public address system warned the section of Des Bosch fans responsible for the chants about their inappropriate behavior. The second warning coincided with the pause in the match, with fans cautioned that a final announcement would lead to the cancellation of the match.
According to AP reports, referee Reinold Wiedemeijer wanted to stop the match; however, Altidore “persuaded him not to.”
This isn’t the first time a high-profile American has suffered racial abuse in the Europe. DeMarcus Beasley, during his time at PSV Einhoven from 2004 to 2007, described being targeted by monkey noises. In 2009, Maurice Edu claimed to the the target of racial abuse while at Rangers.
Also in 2009, defender Oguchi Onyewu was involved in a high profile incident while at Standard Liege in Belgium. Onyewu claimed Anderlecht defender Jelle Van Damme called him a “dirty ape.” Onyewu later sued over the act but withdrew his claim after getting an apology from Van Damme.
Unfortunately, 23-year-old Altidore’s name is now added to the list of high profile Americans who have experienced the worst of European soccer. In reality, it’s unlikely this is the first time Altidore’s had to play through such abuse. As of today, it’s probably just the best known.
On a day when most at home would have celebrated his 20th all-competition goal of the season, Altidore makes headlines because of the ignorance of a group of Den Bosch supporters.