Ahead of this weekend’s Erasing Racism Round A-League star and All Together Now Ambassador Bruce Djite shares with us why the joint PFA and FFA initiative is so important and why footballers are committed to tackling racism.

Q. How did your role as an Ambassador for the anti-racism charity All Together Now come about?

BD:I got contacted by All Together Now and they asked if I would like to be an Ambassador. I did a little bit of research and saw what they were about and what they wanted to achieve and spoke to the board and it was all pretty simple after that. I knew it was a fantastic organisation and something that I definitely wanted to be a part of and would be proud to be associated with it.

Q. Did high profile incidents in recent seasons have an impact on you?

BD:We had an incident at Adelaide and that opened my eyes. I had played at Adelaide for a number of years and that type of thing happening had never crossed my mind. It’s definitely a minority, and in that instance it was just one individual but it reverberated around the league. We also saw that disgusting incident with Adam Goodes and that was a massive thing with the vitriol that was aimed at him.

Racism unfortunately is there in Australia but it’s not talked about. We have made progress and it is now socially unacceptable but just because it’s not as visible it doesn’t mean it’s not there.

In sport in the heat of battle, where not just players but fans as well are very attached to the game home truths come out and there are obviously still racist people out there and organisations like All Together Now are crucial.

Q. What role can football play in fighting racism?

BD: Football is a very multi-cultural sport and every country in the world plays football from the biggest nations to the smallest and most underdeveloped. As a footballer you are lucky to be in that type of environment where you get to meet people from all different backgrounds and environments. From a young age playing football you become used to people speaking different languages and different cultures so that gives you so many life experiences.

Football is one of, if not the best platform to launch an anti-racism campaign as footballers have a good understanding of diversity and it’s the norm for us. Companies have in their corporate structure that they need diversity, in football that just happens automatically.

Q. You have played overseas what were those experiences like?

BD: Turkey was very different to Australia. It’s a Muslim country, the Mosque is going five times a day. I enjoyed it, the people were very warm and welcoming. In Turkey they are football fanatics and they will do everything to make you feel comfortable. Not just the club, but everyone in the city.

It may be very different for the average person. I believe the experience you have when coming to a new country is greatly influenced by the circumstances you are coming in. It’s the same for every country, look at how we are treating refugees here. That treatment has caused them to riot and that’s because if you treat someone like an animal they will act like one. Your experiences when you arrive and how you are treated will be greatly influenced by why you are coming to the country. This is not how it should be.

Q. What is the key to tackling racism?

BD: It is not about the country where people come from. Racism is about education. The less educated people are the more racist they tend to be. There are also pockets in society where people just don’t understand. I played in China and there were people that have not seen a black person before, and for them they have lived in a bubble and they are not educated on the wider world. People like this are sheltered and probably can’t read or write and anything can feel like a threat. I always think back to education, not maths and that type of education but being aware of the world.

Q. How committed are the players to tackling racism?

BD: The players are very committed to it. Footballers tend to grow up with people from several different cultures. I have never meet a racist footballer and I have no doubt that the players would have no hesitation in continuing being heavily involved in initiatives like the Erasing Racism Round. Most players can’t believe it still exists but it is clear to me that it unfortunately does.

Q. What is the hope of this event and beyond?

BD: This is just the start and we want to spark a discussion about racism. It’s important to raise awareness. It is important for the PFA and the FFA to not just make it a once a year thing and tick the box type of thing, there needs to be a constant dialogue and maybe we can have more initiatives like the AFL has, where they have made real efforts to acknowledge how important and beneficial diversity is. This weekend is a small step but it is an important one.