On 6 December the first leg of the Peruvian top league (Primera División) semi-finals between FBC Melgar and Real Garcilaso was marked by racism after the home team fans racially abused Garcilaso Peruvian player Jhoel Herrera.
The player responded to the abuse with gestures to silence the fans and by lifting his shirt and pointing to the colour of his skin. To the media Herrera said: “It hurts to see how ignorant people really are. I am tired and do not know what else to say about this. I feel sorry for my children that have watch this on the television.”
Following the incident, a Melgar press release announced the club would help identify the perpetrators and pledged a life ban for the fans found guilty.
“This incident makes us reaffirm our commitment to tackle racism and makes us realise that we need even greater efforts to stamp it out once and for all from our stadiums and society” read the press release.
The incident was not the first for Herrera, in April the player was racially abused by César Vallejo Colombian footballer Donald Millán and a month later by an unidentified group of fans at a match against Cienciano.
Three days after the incident in Arequipa, home to FCB Melgar, Melgar Colombian forward Johnnier Montaño was subjected to racist abuse moments before entering the pitch during second leg of the play-offs in Cusco.
On Saturday 12 December, the also Colombian player Carlos Preciado was subjected to racist slurs by Universitario fans during a friendly match between Alianza Lima and Universitario. The match was stopped to halt the abuse.
A month earlier Preciado had been subjected to racism from Universitario fans, this time monkey chants, at the Primera División derby. The game was also suspended.
Condemning the two incidents in November and December, Alianza Lima representative Renzo Gayoso said the club expected a stadium ban to Universitario for its fans’ racism.
Campaigners call for exemplary action
The row of incidents prompted reaction from human rights and anti-discrimination groups in the country. Fare partner Ponte Alerta Contra el Racismo en el Fútbol, a platform of the Peruvian Ministry of Culture to challenge racism in sport, released a statement calling for exemplary sanctions.
Pointing out its action in reporting both incidents to the Professional Football Association (ADFP), the statement also highlighted racism in football as a global issue: “These incidents happened in a global context where black and African-descent players are the main victims of discrimination in football stadiums; these two cases in particular have caught the attention of international organisations who work towards eradicating discrimination in football, as the Fare network.”
In a similar move the also Fare partner Centro de Desarrollo Étnico said: “Over the last months, we have witnessed several racist incidents against African-descent players, which are usually led by groups of fans.
“The victims [the players] are the ones who report these situations but continue to face little action of clubs to stamp out racism from their stands, a situation that in some cases is fed by the media.
“The racist abuse against African-descent players is the mirror of an intolerant society in which we look at each other as different. From ‘bulling’ among children to the workplace, racism against African-descent Peruvians starts on how people address each other to the responsibilities and jobs one gets.”
Brenda Gary, representative of the Peruvian NGO LUNDU Centro de Estudios y Promoción Afroperuano, said: “I believe this is also a matter of self-esteem, one feels better about him/herself by making the others feel inferior, that is how you value yourself. That is also what racism shows.”
In a 2011 report, the Peruvian human rights organisation La Defensoría del Pueblo, declared Peru’s African-descendant population to be in a situation of “vulnerability, deferment and invisibility”.
Two years earlier, Peru became the first Latin American nation to apologise to its black population for centuries of abuse, exclusion and discrimination also admitting that the problem is still present today.
In 2015, 10 discriminatory incidents have been noted in Peruvian football. In response to the incident in Arequipa, Peruvian football authorities have handed FBC Melgar a stadium closure for team’s next home match against Sporting Cristal, without a follow up to the other two.