Jürgen Klopp has praised the courage of Rhian Brewster for speaking out about racial abuse and expressed his hopes that the people at the top of the sport will listen to the 17-year-old and realise more needs to be done in the fight against racism.
Klopp said he could “100% understand” Brewster’s frustration that Uefa, in particular, was not doing enough after the teenager decided to go public, in an interview with the Guardian, in the hope that it might prompt the football authorities to take the problem more seriously.
Brewster, one of the key players when England won the Under-17 World Cup in October, chronicled seven incidents, including five since May, when he says he has been racially abused during matches against players from abroad or witnessed the same happening to a team-mate. Two of the alleged incidents happened while playing for England, including one in the World Cup final when he says his team‑mate Morgan Gibbs-White was called a “monkey” by a Spain player.
“I am really happy he is brave enough, and he needed to be brave, to do what he did because it is such an important thing,” Klopp said. “I really can’t believe people still have these thoughts in their mind now. It’s so strange that it happens in this world now and we need a 17-year-old boy to shout out and say it is still happening all the time and that we need help to stop it. We are really happy he did that but it is not a situation you want a 17-year-old to be in. If he needs help we will give it to him.”
As Herman Ouseley, chairman of Kick it Out, praised Brewster for taking a stand, the Guardian can also reveal that FARE (Football Against Racism in Europe) has already contacted the sport’s main governing bodies to demand action on the back of the teenager’s interview.
“No player of any ethnicity should have to face the type of abuse that Rhian Brewster has spoken about,” Piara Powar, FARE’s executive director, said. “We commend his bravery and maturity in dealing with it on the pitch and taking the initiative to speak about it. He has done football, and those of us campaigning for change, a huge favour.
“We have already been in touch with Uefa and are writing to Fifa. Rhian has opened up a reality within a part of the game that is relatively closed. We are seeking assurances, and making suggestions as to how, the issues raised will translate into change in the future.”