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Chelsea start investigation after racist gesture aimed at Son Heung-min

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Tottenham Hotspur's Son Heung-min faces abuse from fans, including what appears to be a racist gesture, as he walks to the corner during a game against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in London on Aug. 14. [SCREEN CAPTURE]
Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heung-min faces abuse from fans, including what appears to be a racist gesture, as he walks to the corner during a game against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in London on Aug. 14. [SCREEN CAPTURE]

Chelsea is investigating a possible instance of racist abuse directed at Tottenham Hotspur forward Son Heung-min during Sunday’s Premier League clash at Stamford Bridge in London.
The incident occurred during the second half of the match as Son walked to take a corner in front of the home fans in the Shed End stands.  
Footage of the incident shows fans clearly shouting and making insulting gestures at the Korean forward, with at least one fan appearing to make a racist gesture aimed at Son.

The image quickly spread online, prompting Chelsea to start an investigation into the incident.

The alleged racist abuse directed at Son is the latest in a long run of incidents of racist abuse and derogatory marks targeting Korean footballers in Europe.

Two weeks ago, Wolverhampton Wanderers filed a complaint with UEFA when Hwang Hee-chan was the victim of racism while playing a friendly in Portugal.

While on the road facing Portuguese side Farense at Estádio Algarve in the Algarve, Hwang saw a fan making what appeared to be a racist gesture behind the goal while he was taking a penalty.

Hwang immediately complained to the referee and to his own team captain Conor Coady, but the game continued. It wasn’t until after the match was finished that Wolves issued a statement.

Son has faced racist abuse a number of times throughout his career with Tottenham Hotspur. In April last year, Manchester United suspended three season-ticket holders after Son received online abuse after a game.  

In 2020 a pundit on an Arsenal supporters channel was forced to step down after using derogatory slang to describe Son, and in 2019, a West Ham United supporter was fined for racially abusing him.

The incident in Portugal was also not the first time that Hwang, now in his second season with Wolverhampton, has faced racist abuse. Last year, when he was first introduced to Wolves fans on the sidelines of a game against Manchester United, United fans sang an offensive chant that references Koreans eating dog meat.

That incident triggered former United star Park Ji-sung to call out his own fans, condemning their continued use of a song that perpetuates racist stereotypes and is targeted at younger Korean players.

In an emotional blog post last week, Mainz star Lee Jae-sung, a national squad teammate of Son and Hwang, said that he had also regularly faced derogatory comments.

In a post on his personal Naver blog last Monday, Lee, who started his international career with Holstein Kiel after four years in Korea with Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, discussed the racism he has experienced playing in Germany.

Lee said he first experienced racism while playing in Kiel, when a colleague walked into a room and started questioning what he’d been eating. He became conscious of the smell of garlic and started avoiding crowded areas or eating Korean food before training, even dousing himself with cologne before heading to the club to try and avoid further criticism.  

The incidents were not just on the pitch, as Lee had also encountered derogatory remarks related to his eyes, with teammates laughing and telling him to open his eyes during training.

Anti-racism campaigns have become common across Europe, including the Premier League’s “No room for racism” campaign and UEFA’s “Say no to racism.” Teams also often take the knee before games — a common gesture across the sporting world as a statement against racism — but incidents of racism still remain common.

A legislative effort to tackle the issue is ongoing, with the British government proposing in January to change the law that allows teams to ban people convicted of violence, disorder, and racist or homophobic chanting from stadiums to also cover online offenses.

BY JIM BULLEY [jim.bulley@joongang.co.kr]

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