Soccer pros hold event on South Beach to help end racism

06/21/2013 6:55 PM

06/26/2013 1:31 PM

Europe’s soccer stars may be spending their holiday vacationing in Miami Beach, but this weekend many of them will be taking part in an event to raise awareness against racism in their sport.

The Miami-based Soccer Without Limits organization is hosting the Fight Against Racism Footvolley event Saturday and Sunday at Lummus Park on Miami Beach.

“I have never played footvolley but I’m sure we are going to have fun,” said Jérôme Boateng, who plays soccer for Bayern Munich.

The weekend kicks off at 2 p.m. Saturday with a celebrity two-on-two footvolley tournament, featuring international soccer stars from more than five national teams.

Along with Boateng, participants are: Edson Braafheid, (FC Twente and Dutch National Team); Gedion Zelalem, (FC Arsenal); Quincy Owusu-Abeyie, (Panathinaikos FC and Ghana National Team); Patrick Ebert, (Real Valladolid); Orlando Engelaar, (PSV Eindhoven and Dutch National Team); Fabian Johnson and Joseph Gyau, (1899 Hoffenheim and USA National Team); Oguchi Onyewu, (Málaga and USA National Team); and Sejad Salihovic, (1899 and Bosnian National Team).

At 2 p.m. Sunday, it will be the turn of professional footvolley players from the U.S. national team to demonstrate their abilities at this increasingly popular game that originated on the beaches of Brazil.

Entry will be free both days.

The event comes at the end of a significant year in the struggle to eradicate racism from soccer stadiums.

After a series of incidents involving players and fans in Italy and England using racist language, FIFA, the world’s soccer governing body, approved in May tougher sanctions for racist abuse.

The resolution, passed with a 99 percent majority, contemplates punishments including teams being relegated, having points deducted or being banned from a tournament.

Jérôme Boateng’s half-brother, Kevin-Prince Boateng, was the protagonist of an incident that has been considered a watershed moment for soccer.

He walked off the pitch during a friendly game between his team, AC Milan, and Italian team Pro Patria after he was racially abused by their fans.

The rest of the players, led by Milan’s captain, Massimo Ambrosini, followed him off the pitch and the game was abandoned.

“It’s a good step to show that we must respect each other,” Jérôme Boateng said Friday.

Kevin-Prince Boateng was praised by many other players and authorities who say the soccer community has turned a blind eye toward racist chants and insults for too many years.

Kevin-Prince Boateng tried to come to Miami Beach for the event, but decided to rest because he’s recovering from a knee injury.

Jeffrey Webb, anti-racism chief, said FIFA is now planning to implement a zero tolerance policy. Racist abuse, he said, is “a huge disrespect to an athlete who spends thousands of hours preparing for a competition.”

Webb said he believes in the power of soccer to educate people.

“The goal of this event is very close to my heart and mission — standing up against racism, ignorance and discrimination within our beloved sport,” he said.

Soccer Without Limits CEO and co-founder Adam Davis said the group intends to organize similar events in other countries, including Europe.

“Racism within the soccer world is unfortunately very real, and this weekend we aim to raise awareness to the problem, while reminding fans of the beauty of the sport and bringing them closer to their favorite players,” Davis said.

A previous version of this article misspelled Adam Davis' name.

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