• ‘The world must come together to address racism’
Manager of Welsh club, Prestatyn FC, Andrew Ruscoe, believes African players do not get the recognition they deserve despite their talent and achievement. He attributes this situation to the harsh conditions they face in their bid to make their talents count in football.
According to Ruscoe, “African players are fantastic and the talent that comes from the continent is unreal. I watched the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) and there were many talented players on the pitch who can easily do well in any top-flight club.
“It’s just a shame that things like work permit and Brexit has limited the opportunities African players get to play in countries like the United Kingdom and other European countries.
“I do feel that clubs in Wales though should have more of a duty to encourage more African players or players with African heritage within local communities, who currently reside in the UK.
“Over the years, I have had the privilege to manage some great lads, who have African heritage. Some of them are Jonathan Swale, Bruno Miguel, Ahmed Ibrahim, Mamadie Sheriff, Junior Fani, Junior Alby, Heitor Soares, Samuel Bebiako Kakari to Vila Nova. All these lads have great work ethic and desire to excel.”
He said there are amazing sports personalities on the African continent, adding, however, “they don’t get much brand commercialisation in comparison to European players, they don’t get the recognition they deserve.”
Using Sadio Mane to buttress his point, he said, “if he was from England, he would have been classified at per with Ronaldo and Messi; it’s truly an unfair system unfortunately.”
Explaining Prestatyn’s struggle in the Welsh League, Ruscoe said: “Usually, the ambition would be to win the league and have a great cup run in the Football Association of Wales (FAW) Cup and participate in the Uefa Cup qualifiers. But this season, the ambitions are simply to not get relegated.
“I took over in December 2021 with our new management team and our job was to consolidate a disgruntled team, get the smiles back on the lads’ faces and keep this amazing club up from getting relegated into tier three. Next season, the aim will be much higher. A club like Prestatyn should be challenging for titles.”
On racism, which has become a recurring topic in European sport, Ruscoe said the world must come together to address the malaise, adding that fighting racism should star from the top right through to the grassroots game.
“Racism in the UK is a serious crime, which has reduced, but it does, unfortunately, still exist in minorities.
“However, racism is only ever identified at the top end within football and it just becomes a token gesture campaign when it is challenged. But to truly address it, we need to be getting into the grassroots clubs, delivering educational lessons to the next generation… we need to include it as modules in our coach education programmes and governments need to address it by making it lesson of history where mankind needs to learn from its mistakes.
“A focus on cultural differences may help to breakdown this awful barrier. Football is a catalyst of bringing people of all walks of life together but it can’t do this alone.”