Players' Views

Jonas Olsson


Have you ever come across racism in your career?

Not directed at myself, but I remember playing in qualifiers with Sweden somewhere in Eastern Europe and our black players had racism directed towards them.

They took it quite well, they didn’t like it of course, but they understood that you can get people with those kinds of values everywhere. I think the team got behind our black players very well and did our best to not let them be affected by it and not let the team be affected by it.

Do you have experience of living in a multicultural society, both in Sweden and the UK?

I come from a town in the south of Sweden, called Landskrona, which is maybe the most multicultural city in Sweden. I especially saw this diversity in my football team growing up, as we had many people from Arab countries and the Balkans – there was a big mix and I had friends from all over the world there.

That is one of things I like most about football; you get lots of different nationalities and you can experience bits of cultures from around the world. Football is such a great game because it brings people together and in football you speak the same language whether you are from Sweden, Africa or America.

One area of racism that has grown recently is Islamophobia and there has been a lot of anti-Muslim sentiment around. One example of that is the tragedy in Norway and the gunman Anders Breivik, who expressed a lot of anti-Muslim sentiment. Have you played with any players from a Muslim background?

Of course, lots. When I played in Sweden and Holland we had many Muslims in the teams. I think in football, or at least in the teams I have played in, you don’t really think about it – they are just colleagues and friends and that is the way it should be. You respect each other and whether somebody has the same or different religion to you is not an issue – it really isn’t something that is important.

Do you feel your experience of living in multicultural societies with different religions and cultures has benefitted you?

Of course, definitely. If you look with an historical perspective, you see we are all immigrants in some way. The Normans came to this country a thousand years ago and before them it was the Vikings. Looking at the way world is now in terms of people living with those from different cultures, I feel more like a world citizen than a Swede to be fair – I think that is how it should be.


In football, like in life, people mixing is a positive thing. We have some good ideas in Sweden and there are other things we are not the best at, so you take influences from other countries or cultures and that is what makes society and humans as a whole to develop and progress in a positive way, I guess.

The Swedish player Anton Hysen has come out as being gay – why do you think he is the only current player to have done so?

I don’t really know. When he was in the Swedish press, I think most took the view of football being a very macho environment as the main reason for why he is the only current player to have come out.

I think that people sometimes get it wrong when they look from the outside and judge how we are in the sport. I think that, in terms of accepting different cultures and people, football is leading society but there is work to be done of course. Just look at our dressing room [at West Brom], we have 20 different nationalities getting along well, so I think it is wrong when some say dressing rooms aren’t, or won’t be, respectful about people being different, whether it is about differing sexual orientation or religious beliefs. I think there would be no problem in general.

What advice would you give a young person suffering from racism?

I think it is important to not let it get to you and the people who are being racist are the ones who have the issues. The people giving the abuse are the ones who have a poor perspective of things and they are the ones who aren’t intelligent enough to realise that it isn’t about how you look or what your beliefs are but it is how you are as a person that is the most important thing.


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