Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Michel Morganella expelled from London 2012 Olympics for racist tweet

The London 2012 Olympic games started on 27 July 2012 and less than a week into the games two athletes have been expelled in relation to racism. Like Euro 2012 and other sporting events in Europe, London 2012 is not void of news headlines about racism and racial abuse. Greece expelled Voula Papachristou from the country's Olympic team over xenophobic and somewhat racist comments she posted on Twitter about Africans in Greece. One week later, another Olympian - Michel Morganella - has landed in hot water over a racist tweet.

Switzerland has expelled Michel Morganella from the London 2012 Olympics.

Michel Morganella, defender in Switzerland's men's Olympic football team, was expelled after posting a racist tweet aimed at South Korean people. He posted the offensive tweet after Switzerland lost 2-1 to South Korea on 29 July 2012.

After losing to South Korea, the 23-year-old Swiss logged onto Twitter and referred to South Koreans as a "bunch of mongoloids." He also wrote that South Koreans "can go burn." [Source]

It is worth mentioning that "mongoloid" is a controversial racial term used in slang as an insult.

According to Gian Gilli, head of Switzerland's Olympic team, Michel Morganella "discriminated, insulted and violated the dignity of the South Korean football and people."

I agree with the head coach and welcome the decision of Switzerland is expel the footballer from London 2012 Olympics.

Michel Morganella's Twitter post was without a doubt racist and unacceptable. Insulting a group of people on grounds of race is exactly what racism is all about. Racist statements, both online and offline, undermine respect for human rights and human dignity and there should be consequences for perpetrators.

Like many people caught in the act of racial abuse, Michel Morganella has apologized but the harm has already been down. He must now live the rest of his life with a racist mark next to his name.

Athletes linked to racism and racial abuse are having a hard time at the London 2012 Olympic games. Luis Suarez, captain of Uruguay's men's Olympic football team, was booed every time he touched the ball at Wembley during Uruguay's 2-0 loss to Senegal on 29 July 2012. Football fans have not forgotten that in January 2012, Suarez was sanctioned by the FA for racially abusing Patrice Evra.

*Photo source: Iltalehti.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Welcome expulsion of Voula Papachristou from London 2012 Olympics

Economically, Greece is headed for the gallows. Greece's Prime Minister said on Tuesday that the country's economy could shrink by more than 7% this year and a recovery is not expected until 2014. With the Greek economy reportedly in a fifth year of "grinding recession", right-wing extremism has gained popularity and violence and hate crimes against immigrants and asylum seekers is the order of the day in Greece.  An offensive post on Twitter about African immigrants by Voula Papachristou, a Greek triple jumper, puts widespread disdain against immigrants in Greece into perspective.

Voula Papachristou, 23, was expelled from Greece's Olympic team for posting an offensive comment targeting African immigrants on Twitter. She wrote: "With so many Africans in Greece... At least the West Nile mosquitoes will eat homemade food!!!" (tweet translated from Greek to English).

The Twitter post may seem innocent and harmless but it is not.

It is unclear whether or not Papachristou meant African immigrants in Greece are "West Nile mosquitoes." Regardless, the bottom-line is that the Twitter update is offensive to people of African descent and contrary to fundamental principles of olympism as stated in the Olympic Charter. The goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to the building of a peaceful and better world. Such a divisive statement by a member of the Olympic Movement is out of place.

Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch published a report about hate and xenophobic violence in Greece. The 99-page report documents the plight of immigrants in Greece and the failure of the police and the judiciary to protect them. Migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East are routinely attacked - beaten and wounded - by gangs of Greeks in Athens and elsewhere.

The post by Voula Papachristou promotes anti-immigration sentiments by linking Africans with mosquitoes infected with the West Nile Virus (WNV). Such an irresponsible statement could further incite hate crimes against Greece's African, immigrant population. In 2011, an outbreak of WNV killed nine people in Greece. The virus was first discovered in Uganda in 1937. It is found in both temperate and tropical regions.

Given the precarious circumstances surrounding immigrants and asylum seekers in Greece - as highlighted by Human Rights Watch - I welcome the decision of the Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC), the governing Olympic body of Greece, to expel Voula Papachristou from London Olympics 2012. The expulsion sends a strong message that xenophobia, although widespread in Greece, has no place in a free and democratic society. I also welcome Voula Papachristou's "heartfelt" apology for her "tasteless joke."

*Photo: Yahoo Sports.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Mario Balotelli: Italy's Rising Star defies racial abuse

First Published in: Dunia Magazine

Despite efforts to promote equality and diversity, human beings are continuously being treated differently on grounds of race, religion, ethnicity, gender or color in many walks of life. Football (soccer) is not an exception. "Super Mario" - as Mario Balotelli of Italy is fondly called - and his supporters would agree with this assertion.

David Beckham, former England captain and superstar, was recently given a one-game ban and fined for "confrontational and provocative behaviour" during a Major League Soccer (MLS) match between LA Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes. During the match, an angry Beckham reportedly kicked the ball at Sam Cronin and the referee standing over him as the player lay on the ground after taking a kick, frustrated at what he thought was time wasting by his opponent. A booked Beckham continued to argue unprofessionally with opponents after the final whistle. Beckham's misconduct and unacceptable behaviour did not spark a Twitter or that much of a media frenzy; neither did it get that much attention from soccer fans worldwide. Many were however disappointed and outraged by the fact that the superstar was not selected for the Great Britain Olympic football squad. Interesting.

Mindful of the aforementioned incident, replace the name David Beckham with the name Mario Balotelli and watch all hell break loose.

Commonsense suggests that a lot more should be expected from a 37-year-old David Beckham - arguably one of the most well-known athletes in the world - than from a 21-year-old, relatively inexperienced Mario Balotelli. But for some twisted reason a lot more is expected from the latter.

Whatever Mario Balotelli does attracts widespread negative criticism. He has been described as explosive, rude, unpredictable... yet everyone agrees he is super-talented. How Mario Balotelli celebrates his goals, when he celebrates them, or if he jubilates at all, are all fodder for criticism and speculation in the football world where his every move is carefully watched and heavily scrutinized. This was the case in the Euro 2012 semi-final match between Italy and Germany where Mario scored twice against Germany, catapulting Italy to the finals. He took off his shirt in celebration after the second goal - a decision that was widely ridiculed online and attracted strong disapproval, such as this tweet from a sports commentator: "#Balotelli: more brains in his feet than in his head..." Mario Balotelli is not the first player to take off his shirt after finding the back of the net and I daresay he is not going to be the last. 

In the football world, no one is stranger to players with disciplinary issues, but few are blown out of proportion and make such strong headlines as those involving Balotelli. Players with unacceptable conduct often get away unnoticed, Balotelli however always takes the bullet. Perhaps this explain why after scoring against Manchester United in October 2011, he unveiled a shirt with the words: "Why always me?"

Good news about Mario Balotelli however fails to attract enough attention. For instance, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Technical Team for Euro 2012 selected him as one of twenty three players listed in the Euro 2012 Team of the Tournament. Other players in the list include soccer heavyweights like Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal, Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Sweden, Cese Fabregas of Spain and Spain's Andrés Iniesta - best player of the tournament. A place in Euro 2012 Team of the Tournament is a clear indication that Mario Balotelli, to the disappointment of his critics, is one of the best in European football.

The Palermo-born Italian is the first black player to appear for Italy in a major tournament. He was born on 12 August 1990 in Palermo, Italy to Ghanaian parents. "Life-threatening" health complications he suffered from as a child led social workers to recommend his parents entrusted him to the care of an Italian foster family. On 13 August 2008 - a day after he turned 18 years old, Balotelli officially became an Italian citizen. 

The talented Italian rising star has endured unprecedented racial abuse and humiliation in the hands of narrow-minded and racist members of the public. In 2009, he was racially abused by Juventus and Roma fans in Italy. In June 2009, he was pelted with bananas in a bar in Rome. As recently as February of 2012, Porto fans, a Portuguese football club, threw racial insults at Balotelli during the first leg of the Europa League. 

Italian neo-Nazis have argued that he should not play for Italy because he is "black and Jewish" (his foster mother is of Jewish descent).

Before the Euro 2012 tournament in Poland and Ukraine, he threatened to walk off the pitch if racially abused. He spoke out amid concerns of racism and anti-semiticism in stadiums in Poland and Ukraine raised by a documentary aired on BBC Panorama. During the tournament, out-of-control Croatia fans racially abused him. UEFA fined the Croatian Football Federation (HNS) £65,000 (€80,000) while Balotelli stayed focused and went on to prove his worth. He solidified his position as Italy's rising star.

At Euro 2012 he wore Italy's shirt and honorably defended the colors of a nation where he is regarded by many as a foreigner. His goals reserved Italy a place in the finals.

Mario Balotelli, hate him or love him, is Italy's rising star and an inspiration to many people of African descent who refuse to break under growing racism, xenophobia and routine discrimination in Europe. Despite all odds, "Super Mario" continues to make his presence felt as a force to reckon with in European football. His talent and ability to work under unprecedented pressure and to overcome adversity is testament to the strength and resilience of the "Balotelli generation" - children of African descent born and raised in Europe but regarded as foreigners.

No one has put it better than Mario Balotelli himself: "Those who know me, love me. Those who don't know me, love me, too, or they hate me."

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Hate and xenophobic violence in Greece

Embroiled in economic crisis, Greece has seen a surge in xenophobic violence against its population of immigrants and asylum seekers, and impunity is endemic. According to Human Rights Watch, attacks against foreigners in Greece are "frighteningly common". Attackers, including women mostly operate at night and police do not have a protection or prevention strategy. No one has been convicted of hate crime under a 2008 hate crime statute.

A newsletter from Human Rights Watch to its supporters on 13 July 2012 highlighted the plight of migrants in Greece and the failure of Greek authorities to tackle a wave of hate and xenophobic violence in the "birthplace of democracy".

According to a 99-page report titled "Hate on the Streets: xenophobic Violence in Greece," Greek police and judiciary has failed to protect migrants from increasing violence and hold perpetrators accountable.

The detailed report contains disturbing stories and photographs of victims.

Human Rights Watch found that victims are discouraged from filing complaints and no one has been convicted of hate crime despite evidence of a pattern. Undocumented migrants who are attacked are told by the police that they would be detained if they push for a criminal investigation. Those who persist are told they must pay a fee of €100 to file an official complaint.

The economic crisis is rife in Greece and people need money to survive, but demanding €100 from victims of racist and xenophobic crimes to make ends meet is over-the-top and could amount to denial of justice. Many Greeks cannot afford to pay €100 to file a complaint, thoughtless of migrants - many of whom reportedly live in extreme poverty in abandoned buildings, town squares and parks.

Government statistics on xenophobic violence and hate crime are unreliable. The Greek government recorded only two hate crimes in 2009 and only one in 2008. But Human Rights Watch interviewed victims (including two pregnant women) of 51 serious attacks between 2009 and May 2012. A network of 18 non-governmental organizations recorded 63 incidents between October and November 2011in Athens and Patras. Most victims were undocumented migrants and asylum seekers. [Source]

Vigilante gangs of Greeks attack immigrants and asylum seekers with impunity, despite Greece's obligations under national and international law to protect all persons within its borders, including immigrants and asylum seekers from human rights violations. Greece is party to key international agreements such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) which obligate the state to guarantee everyone protection and equal enjoyment of rights without distinction of any kind, including race, color, religion or national origin.

The deep economic crisis in Greece is no excuse for hate and xenophobic violence. Attacks against foreigners would not remedy the sorry-state of Greece's economy. Attacks tarnish the reputation of Greece and further drag the country into social and economic crisis.

Tourism is an important part of the economy of Greece. Hate and xenophobic violence would keep tourists - many of whom are "foreigners" from European and non-European countries - away and further hurt the country's struggling economy.

The government of Greece should act to prevent and punish xenophobic attacks. The European Union (EU) should hold Greece to the same human rights standards it demands from other European and non-European countries. It is a shame that such blatant violation of human rights is happening in the backyard of the EU. Failure of Greece to protect migrants and asylum seekers from abuse is an affront to principles of human dignity, freedom, equality, rule of law and respect for human rights promulgated by the EU and other European bodies like the Council of Europe to which Greece is a member state.

*Photo of twenty-year-old Afghan attacked in Athens on 12 December 2011. Source: Human Rights Watch.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Lund University ranked among world's top 100 universities in 2012

Lund University, located in southern Sweden, has done it again. It has once again been ranked among the world's top 100 universities in 2012 by QS World University Rankings.

I first learned of Lund University while studying law at the Bachelors level at University of Buea, Cameroon and looking for opportunities to further my education abroad. I was privileged a few years later to be admitted to pursue a Masters degree (LL.M.) in International Human Rights Law and International Labour Rights at the revered Lund University - an institution that has been repeatedly ranked among the world's top universities in recent years by different ranking bodies. Lund University was, for instance, ranked among the world's top ranking university in 2009 by QS World University Rankings.

The university has enjoyed high rankings in many subject areas including Arts and Humanities, Natural Sciences, Engineering and Technology, Life Sciences and Medicine, Accounting and Finance, Sociology, Politics and International Studies, as well as Law.

QS World University Rankings by Subject 2012 placed Lund University among top 100 universities in the world in subject areas including Law, Politics and International Studies, Accounting and Finance, and Mechanical Engineering. According to QS World University Rankings 2012, Lund University is among the best (top 50) universities in the world in other subject areas such as Geography (20th), Environmental Science (43rd =) and Civil Engineering (47th).

Lund University is my alma mater and I am definitely proud and honored to have studied at Lund. Congratulations to all those working tirelessly to make Lund University a top tier institution of higher learning.

Read My Journey to Lund, Sweden - a Life-changing experience.

*Photo: Wikipedia.

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