January 29, 2013 should have been nothing more than a day to celebrate for US Men's National Team forward Jozy Altidore. His club AZ Alkmaar earned an impressive 5-0 victory over second-tier FC Den Bosch in a KNVB Cup match, and Altidore notched an assist and his 20th goal of the season across all competitions in the winning effort. Instead, however, fans and journalists alike are only commenting on the racist actions of a group of Den Bosch supporters who have disgraced themselves and their club.
Altidore was the target of racist taunts throughout Tuesday evening's cup contest. What AZ's official Twitter page described as "jungle sounds" (more commonly referred to as "monkey chants") were hurled at the US international each time he touched the ball during the first half. Altidore only played better as the half went on, and he eventually earned and converted a penalty that put AZ up 4-0 seven minutes before the break.
Things got even uglier after halftime. The racist taunts continued, and some Den Bosch fans also threw items onto the pitch. Referee Reinold Wiedemeijer halted play and he wanted to stop the match, but Altidore convinced Wiedemeijer to restart the game. AZ were playing too well, the forward would later explain in a brief interview that was posted on the Eredivisie Live website following the match, to end things early.
"It's a bit disappointing that these things still happen in this time that we're in, but what are you going to do? Just have to hope that these people can find a way to improve themselves, and you can only pray for them," Altidore stated. "I feel like I have an obligation as a football player and to my club and to my family, as well, to not react to things like this." He also said the following when asked about the referee stopping the game early: "No, no no. We were in a good rhythm, and it's important for us to keep going. I think we started the new year right, and you have to look at the bigger picture, and that's starting the second half of the season strong, and I'm looking forward to Groningen (AZ's next opponent) on Saturday."
While this incident hits close to home for US Soccer supporters, they are hardly a rarity in the football world. Racism was a major topic heading into and at Euro 2012. A trio of Tottenham Hotspur players and AC Milan star Kevin-Prince Boateng are just a handful of players who have been victims of racial abuse from fans this season alone. The incident that occurred during this past October's Serbia vs. England U-21 match caused outrage around the world, and UEFA were publicly chastised by many in the football community after that organization merely fined Serbia in December.
There have been plenty of discussions over the past several years about whether or not matches should be stopped whenever racist taunts occur in the stands. Altidore took matters into his own hands on Tuesday when he hurt those particular Den Bosch supporters the best way he could: By helping AZ put goals on the scoreboard. This is already the best season of the American's career, and it's not yet February.
There's plenty of football left to be played before the middle of May.
For more: Altidore's quest for greatness continues