‘This generation is tasked with stamping out racism for good’ - Malta U19 keeper Rashed Al-Tumi

Malta goalkeeper Rashed Al-Tumi represents a new generation of Maltese whose lives are also impacted by racism on and off the sporting field

 Rashed Al-Tumi
Rashed Al-Tumi

Malta under-19 goalkeeper Rashed Al-Tumi has called on his generation to stamp out racism and xenophobia as “its duty”, saying racism should be addressed at its root.

The 19-year-old Malta international, currently on loan to Italian Serie D side Casarano Calcio in Parma, joined the national debate on racism earlier this week in his condemnation of the murder of George Floyd by an American police officer who kneeled on his neck.

As Black Lives Matter protests sweep the globe, and a militarised American police force is deployed to repel peaceful activists and looters joining the riots across the United states, even Al-Tumi’s outrage on Facebook was met by a racist backlash from a San Ġwann FC nursery official, Manuel Pisani, who racially insulted the young Maltese goalkeeper, and was since then sacked from the club.

Valletta-born Al-Tumi has already represented the nation as part of the youth football team. But earlier this week, he joined hundreds of people in their condemnation of the murder of George Floyd in the United States. It was here that Al-Tumi found himself under attack by Manuel Pisani, a San Gwann FC nursery official who coaches children.

“They’re not people,” Pisani said on Facebook in broken Maltese. “Wake up you Americans so you take your country back. America of red Indians. The place for black people is in Africa and nowhere else. They’re not people.”

After Al-Tumi confronted Pisani for his hateful comments, the San Ġwann official turned his aim at the young Malta keeper instead. “So what – you’re not Maltese; you came here when you were young and we taught you something,” Pisani said, before ending his comment with the all-too-familiar “go back to your country” slur.

Al-Tumi responded by posting a picture of himself and 10 national team-mates singing the Maltese national anthem before an international football match.

Al-Tumi this week told MaltaToday he had received his fair share of racist remarks, and that such comments do not faze him. “Words do not affect me, what bothers me is when their actions are racist. How can someone tell me ‘go back to your country’ when I was born and raised in Malta?”

He recalled instances where people would cross the street just so they don’t have to walk beside him on a pavement.

He said he asks himself every day why people are racist. “I ask myself that question every day. Maybe because of a negative experience, or maybe it’s their lack of education.”

On the other hand, he said that he takes racist remarks with a pinch of salt, and doesn’t feel too bothered by them. “I never felt threatened. Racism is not a Maltese thing, you will always find racists anywhere you go,” he said.

With his sight firmly fixed on a long footballing career, Al-Tumi however says racism in sport has not affected him. “In football it doesn’t affect me, I don’t care. All I think about is the game,” he said. But he still has had his fair share of xenophobic incidents, recalling a match against Calcio Foggia, when the opposing team’s supporters started doing monkey chants every time he touched the ball.

Al-Tumi also recalled the first time he witnessed racism as a supporter, when he was just a young boy. “I was at Ta’ Qali, and I remember a supporter sitting a couple of rows behind me shouting racist remarks to an opposing player. At the time I couldn’t understand why he was doing it, and I just kept staring at him,” he said.

Asked if he thinks twice about representing Malta when faced with racial abuse, Al-Tumi said that while doubts occassionally arise, he still feels proud to represent the country. “I am proud to represent the country. I can represent Libya – but I don’t want to, because I feel Maltese.”

Al-Tumi said that while football is a sport of passion, and tensions do escalate, racism should never be the way supporters vent their frustration. “Football is a game of all ethnicities and religions, racism has no place in the sport.”

Lassana Cisse
Lassana Cisse

A demonstration was held front of Parliament on Monday, calling for justice for Lassana Cisse, the man shot dead in a drive-by shooting by two former AFM soldiers now out on bail. Ivorian national Lassana Cisse was murdered in April 2019 while walking home to Hal Far, when two young army soldiers, driving in a car, shot at him and two other black men. Lorin Scicluna and Francesco Fenech stand accused of having shot Cisse dead in cold blood, and are out on bail after spending eight months in custody.

Black Lives Matter is the rallying cry in protests that are attracting vast crowds abroad, with the United States currently convulsed by outrage at the racist murder of another black man, George Floyd, and the heavy-handed police response to subsequent protests.

Floyd, a 46-year-old bouncer, was killed by Derek Chauvin, a police officer, who pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck until he died while other police officers watched. Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, persisting even after Floyd was unresponsive, according to a criminal complaint released by the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office. Chauvin is charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

More in National