Racism is a topic that has plagued soccer for quite some time. Whether it's hooligans looking for a reaction, racist chants at games around the world or behavior behind the scenes, racism continues to be a divisive topic in sports.
Clarence Seedorf, who remains the only player to win the UEFA Champions League with three teams, is especially close to the subject as a black man who managed to break into the world of international soccer management. During an interview with Grant Wahl on the World Cup Daily Podcast, Seedorf discussed the concept of racism in soccer and how international soccer should adopt something similar to the Rooney Rule that is instituted in the NFL in order to create more opportunities to increase diversity into the coaching ranks in international soccer. Seedorf's interview starts around the 13-minute mark:
"Well, I think that there's still a lot of prejudice going on," Seedorf said, when asked about why there aren't more black coaches in international soccer. "I don't really think it's only an issue of football, I think football is a mirror of society. What we're seeing in society is a lot of movement going on to give a voice to the minority and groups of minorities."
Seedorf also said that minorities trying to get managerial positions face a multitude of disadvantages that others don't, including suffering from what we might call "Black Quarterback Syndrome" in American football, where many may not view minority managers as "thinkers" or capable of making decisions.
He said that the problem is two-pronged: There are many former minority players that have gone through the appropriate schooling and licensing but never get the chance to manage at a high level and the minorities who do end up in management positions may not recognize the responsibility they have and, when they perform poorly, that performance is unfairly cast upon everyone who looks like them. That is why he is in favor of something similar to the Rooney Rule for international soccer, that would give a more fair shot at getting a job.
"It's from both sides," Seedorf said. "It's not only those who get the jobs but the ones who are looking for it and making sure you are prepared in the best way and you are ready. Get your management courses done and try and be the best.
"I like the whole NFL Rooney Rule—which the thing, what I like so much about it is, they didn't oblige them to hire them. But it was really, you have to interview them because it's about the prejudice. I am convinced that the prejudice is the first step, that we can still influence those that have those kinds of thoughts. ... I think if [a Rooney Rule] is implemented in a more systematic way, I think that would also give us a chance then to get into such processes and say, 'OK, if you have three interviews, make sure you also have to interview a minority group.' And that would be something that could help improve the situation as well."
With Senegal out of the World Cup—and with it, the only black manager in the competition, Aliou Cisse—it appears there is much more work to be done.
As for racism in soccer, Seedorf wanted to make sure that the term is used properly and carefully because it carries a lot of weight. He said that, with evolving technology, it has become easier to identify fans actually participating in racist actions and to dole out punishment when necessary. But if things are to change, Seedorf thinks fines for clubs and teams is the wrong approach.
"I think that, for sure, there needs to be taken action," he said. "And not only in terms of fines, because I don't think the fines would help because the fines have been going on for years and years and still we see this kind of behavior. ... So I thought they needed to step up the rules in terms of when these types of things happen, to really try and identify and make that effort that these people are banned from football because they are not fans.
"These are just people that are making problems and that's it. It's either for violence or racist behavior and then, a lot of times, they are blaming the clubs. The clubs are getting fined and everything and I don't know the effect of that."