âWe need to invite the players to dig deeper into the subject of racism so that they can understand that they can make a difference.
“When they find out and subsequently decide to leave the field, you will see that the institutions will find solutions to the problem of racism.
âIf you stop the games, you stop the business – and football is first and foremost a business.
“Therefore, if we stop the matches, the football institutions will be forced to find a solution.”
From Guadeloupe to France
He says moving to France and being racially abused by children in school was the first time he realized he was considered a black person in society.
Thuram says he was the victim of racist abuse, such as monkey chants, throughout his playing career, especially after signing for Italian club Parma in 1996.
He recently wrote a book called White Thought: Behind the Mask of Racial Identity which deals with how societal norms still work to divide people and fuel systemic racism.
He says education is the key to tackling the problem in a more meaningful way, both in football and in society in general.
Thuram urged athletes not to be complicit and to continue using their platforms to campaign for social causes.
“You have to know that the authorities will be able to promote more equality in society because we are going to force them to do so,” he said.
“This is why we must educate everyone to understand that we have a role to play, and we must have the courage to speak out against injustices.
“It is the number of people demanding change that will force institutions to change.”
He gave officials the option to drop the game “as a last resort” if racism persisted after restarting the game for the second time.
Meanwhile, the governing body of world football, FIFA, has said it is continuously working with the European Commission to eradicate discrimination in football.
“As the governing body of football around the world, FIFA recognizes and accepts its responsibility to lead the fight against discrimination.”
Since retiring from professional football in 2008, Thuram has seen his son, Marcus, follow in his footsteps in professional football.
Now playing in Germany for Borussia MÃ¶nchengladbach, Marcus was one of many to kneel in a game after George Floyd’s death in 2020.
Other players have used their social media platforms to share messages of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, and English Premier League clubs always kneel down before every game to raise awareness of discrimination.
“What was extremely interesting after the death of George Floyd was that many of the players who got on their knees were young players,” Thuram said.
“This is something very important and it shows why we have to educate the youngest in society because, as a rule, they are the ones who impose change.”
Push for a better future
Thuram praised white players such as Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson for bringing up the subject of racial injustice, but is aware that athletes, especially black athletes, could be criticized for speaking out.
He drew sharp criticism from some for kneeling down and has not been signed to a squad since.
Thuram says he’s not surprised the young black people speaking out elicited such a response, but says the story will be kind to those who do.
“Things haven’t changed,” he said. âYou should know that historically, people who denounce the racism of a political system, of institutions, are generally always sidelined.
“It could mean physically eliminated: there was a time [that] people have been killed for speaking out against racism.
âToday we are presenting Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela as great people. But you have to remember that while they were alive they were put in jail.
“They were also attacked for speaking out against institutional racism, so the fact that Colin Kaepernick couldn’t find a team actually makes sense.”
Thuram is aware that the problem of racism is rife in many other sports and says it is important that sponsors and clubs do not abandon those who oppose it.
In terms of long-term resolution of these issues, Thuram reiterates that education and understanding of the history of racism is vital.
“We must dialogue with the players, educate the players so that they know that they have real power over the decisions that institutions can take to fight racism,” he added.
“Because a lot of times, regardless of skin color, players don’t understand the strategies that can be put in place to improve the tie.”