Brighton & Hove Albion defender Bernardo highlighted the need for stricter punishments for those found guilty of racially abusing others, following a number of unsavoury incidents over the past few weeks.
England internationals Danny Rose and Raheem Sterling have recently given their views on racism within football, and Bernardo is the latest to speak out on the matter, which unfortunately continues to spoil the beautiful game.
He said, “I’m speechless because it’s always the same thing, it doesn’t seem like things are going to change and I don’t see punishments — it’s something that shouldn’t be accepted anymore.
“I don’t know how it works in England, but in Brazil racism is a crime and you go to jail if something like this happens. I think it should be the same over here — maybe things would start to change.
“When one incident happens, then a second and third one, and people notice that nothing is happening, they will carry on doing it.
“Unfortunately you can’t change people’s minds — if someone is racist, you can’t change that, and I actually feel pity for that person.
“But what will stop people [being racist] is being punished. It’s been too soft, it shouldn’t be accepted and things should be more strict.”
Born in Sao Paulo, the South American full-back played his football in Brazil, Austria and Germany before moving to England last summer, and he recalled an incident in his home country that highlighted the unacceptable presence of racism inside the game.
“If you [racially] offend me on the street in Brazil and I go to the police office, nothing happens. But if it happens on a football pitch with cameras and the whole media covering it, it’s jail.
“I was at the stadium for a Copa Libertadores game between Sao Paulo and an Argentinian team — the camera saw the Argentinian player offending the Brazilian player and at half-time they had the images.
“The second half didn’t start, they went and arrested him on the pitch and took him to jail.
“The guy spent one day in jail and then flew back to Argentina, but the image of a football player being arrested on the pitch for being racist is so powerful and impactful.
“I see it as a crime and something that should face a punishment — maybe not years and years in jail, but you should be punished and embarrassed.”
Manchester City winger Sterling spoke out about his refusal to leave the field when faced with racial abuse, however Bernardo gave his thoughts on the matter and the motive behind his opposing opinion.
“I think teams should walk off. It’s obviously my decision as an individual, but at the end of the day that isn’t something that can be decided by just one person.
“If something like this happened here and my team-mates decided to stay, then I would stay. But if you asked me for my opinion, then I would just leave the pitch.
“It doesn’t make sense to be in that sort of environment, there are more important things in life than a match of football.
“The image that you give when you leave the pitch is that you simply don’t accept it. There’s no discussion — I don’t accept it and I’m going away.
“I see it in this way — you’re passing on a message that can be more valuable than playing on for a few more minutes.”