Olivier Giroud has spoken about the importance of top footballers using their status and platforms to support anti-discrimination movements like Black Lives Matter.
The players involved in the first games after the restart of the Premier League campaign this week took a knee together immediately after kick-off, while wearing the words ‘Black Lives Matter’ across their shoulders in the place where their names would usually be printed.
It was a powerful message of support for the movement, which followed a powerful joint statement from Premier League players that was released the previous week, stating: ‘We, the Players, stand together with the singular objective of eradicating racial prejudice wherever it exists, to bring about a global society of inclusion, respect, and equal opportunities for All, regardless of their colour or creed.’
Earlier this month, the Chelsea squad united in taking a knee during a training session, forming the letter H for ‘Humans’, while black England internationals Raheem Sterling and Jadon Sancho have spoken powerfully against widespread racial injustice and the need for more black representation in positions of power. Giroud believes white footballers and other high-profile figures have a responsibility to use their voices to support the movement too.
‘Anything I can do, I will do it,’ he said. ‘Any support can always make a difference because we are major athletes. It’s not enough to say I’m against racism, now you have to fight against it, I think.
‘It’s always nice to hear also white players [speak up] because we are all very sad when we see what is happening nowadays. In 2020, we still have to deal with these racism cases. It’s unacceptable what happened in the US to George Floyd – it’s disgusting, and we need to stand up together and stick together.
‘When we were talking [about the Black Lives Matter movement] with our team-mates at Chelsea, with black players, we felt very together and we just want to support them. We just need meaningful changes now. It’s the same as when we’ve been to Boston to play a game against antisemitism, or when I’ve supported the anti-homophobia cause.’
Giroud has shown himself to be willing to speak out against discrimination in the past. He has long been a prominent voice in the fight against homophobia in football, showing support for the LGBT+ community during interviews with Attitude magazine and the French publication Tetu.
‘Any form of hate, nowadays, should be erased, cancelled from our world,’ he added. ‘I’m very sensitive to this cause. The most important thing is that I support. We are together, we stick together and we will play with the Black Lives Matter badge on our back.
‘For the young kids, it’s all about education, so it needs to come from schools first, because the more you get a better education and learn respect when you are young, [the more] it will help you become a better person. But the young kids also look up at football players and other sportsmen and famous people, and I think we have to show an example. So, yes, I think our voices are very strong.’
Giroud is also looking forward to playing again, after more than three months without competitive football due to the Covid-19 pandemic. He looks at the last few weeks of training as something akin to a mini pre-season period, but admits that he took heart from seeing the tempo at which German football matches have been played since the Bundesliga returned in May.
‘It’s strange because we stopped playing competition for more than three months,’ he said.
‘So you can expect that you might not be ready, ready, 100 per cent from the first game. But, trust me, all the boys are looking forward very much to coming back to competition. We’ve got a lot of young talents who have a lot of energy and they just want to enjoy football again, and they can’t wait to play this first game at Villa.
‘To be honest with you, watching the game between Bayern Munich and Dortmund [shortly after the restart of the Bundesliga last month], I didn’t notice so many changes to the game. I was surprised by the intensity of the game and it meant the teams were ready to come back to competition.
‘We played a friendly against QPR and it was basically a normal friendly game. We just respected social distancing when we were on the bench, we respected all the rules. But when you’re on the pitch, you just focus on what you have to do with the team, and just try not to hug your team-mates when you score!
‘I love football, it’s my passion and I really want to play again in competition. The objective is clear: it’s to finish third or fourth, and we would love to win the FA Cup as well. So we are 100 per cent committed and that will compensate, maybe, any lack of fitness for the first game. It’s our ambition to be successful all together.’
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