What advice would you give to someone who has received racism?
It’s difficult to describe it, but racism is a really unpleasant experience. It’s hard to take abuse from people but you have to remember that we are all human beings and we make mistakes.
I would say you need to be strong and try and ignore what people are saying because it is the best response that you can give. There’s no point getting in trouble and fighting over it. It shows more intelligence to not respond.
Have you ever suffered from racism yourself? Either on, or off the pitch?
The only time I have heard racist abuse was when I was in Spain with the French squad, at the qualifier for the European championship, and we had a predominantly black team.
The team played Spain and throughout the game there were racist comments and monkey chants, but instead of letting that get to us it made us stronger and we realised how strong we were as a team.
We won the game and, after hearing the racist remarks throughout the match, we were proud of what we had just achieved, and to have qualified in front of that crowd. Racism shouldn’t happen in any stadium and the comments showed the mentality of that particular crowd.
How did the black players feel about the abuse?
It feels really bad to receive racism because it hurts your feelings. It’s upsetting because it’s not only aimed at the individual, but at the family, the parents, brothers and sisters.
It’s a cheap insult, it’s a personal attack and it shouldn’t exist anywhere in the world. In this scenario I think that because the team qualified, they never really spoke about the racist incident, because the qualification was seen as more important.
If the result was different, it probably would have gotten more attention. But I’m sure it wasn’t an easy thing to go through.
What’s it like playing with Muslims? What stereotypes do you think people have of Muslims in society?
There has been at least one Muslim player in every team I have played in. On the Newcastle team there is Demba Ba and Hatem Ben Arfa and on the national team there is Samir Nasri, Frank Ribéry and Karim Benzema.
I’m a Catholic and I believe in my religion but the Muslim players are just people like everyone else, with different beliefs, and everyone is entitled their own choice of beliefs and rituals. We all need to accept that everyone is entitled to think what they choose to as long as it guides them down the right path, and to do good things.
Being a Muslim is a religion and nothing else, and it should be accepted and respected. I agree with you that in society today, Muslims are not well accepted, and people shouldn’t make generalisations like that and instead should try to understand the person by getting to know them. We all identify with different religions and beliefs but for me we are all people and we all deserve equal respect.