France legend Lilian Thuram has opened up on how he suffered racial abuse during his school days.
The former defender was born in French West Indies, but moved with his family to Paris a few years later.
Speaking on the subject of racial abuse on black people, the 48-year-old recounted his personal experience as a school kid.
He said he was left bemused by how some of his classmates judged him and subjected him to abuse due to the colour of his skin.
“What struck me when I arrived was that some of my classmates judged me because of my skin colour. They made me believe my skin colour was inferior to theirs and that being white was better,” Thuram told the Guardian.
“These were nine-year-old kids. They weren’t born racist but they’d already developed a superiority complex.
“From that moment I started to ask myself questions: ‘Why are they teasing me? Where does this come from?’ My mother couldn’t provide me with answers. For her this was just the way it was. There are racists and it won’t change.”
Thuram believes racism is still in existence because white people have been educated to believe they are superior to persons of colour.
He said when he joined his first club, Portugais de Fontainebleau, he sometimes had to pretend to be Portuguese.
According to him, some opposition fans used to abuse him on the streets just because of his skin colour.
“Opponents used to insult me by calling me a ‘dirty Portuguese’, which, as a West Indian, I found pretty funny,” he said.
As strong as he is mentally, the Frenchman did not allow all the racist abuse he faced to get to him.
Rather, he says, he was determined to become better at football – a career which eventually made him.
Thuram won numerous trophies playing for some of Europe’s elite clubs, including Juventus and Barcelona.
With the France national team, where he stands as the country’s most capped player, he won the FIFA World Cup in 1998 and the Euros in 2000.
The former defender currently runs the Lilian Thuram Foundation, which seeks to educate young people on the roots of racism and why it is wrong.