After seeing his title challenge wither this week, Luc Eymael went rogue. He complained about the poor upkeep afforded to him, rubbished Tanzanian football infrastructure and knowledge, while equating the fans to monkeys or dogs. The former Young Africans (Yanga) basically did everything but take responsibility. But also, notably, this was intentional racism.
The ensuing storm may have blown away his job and visa, but it is yet to subside.
To try and understand what drives a man to such offensiveness and to avoid the very generalisations he ends up making, it is necessary to look back at his restless and bleak football history.
Eymael was a goalkeeper whose uneventful 25-year career took him through 10 nondescript lower division clubs in Belgium and Holland. His coaching seems to be towing a similar journeyman trajectory. Since 2000, he has coached at 13 African clubs in as many African countries, and he isn’t a shining example of achievement.
Eymael says he has no single racist bone in him and what we heard was frustration as his title hopes ebbed away. And some say racism lies at the end of behaviour hardwired into us by years of evolution that can be traced back to the days when our forefathers thought depravation was to be fought at all costs and with all means.
However, I doubt that racism has an evolutionary basis. I think it’s a defence mechanism generated by feelings of insecurity. The motivation of this behaviour is to enhance one’s sense of significance as a way of protecting oneself against the threat of inadequacy. This would mean racism is a response to a general sense of inadequacy.
Eymael is feeling inadequate following Simba’s superiority and therefore opts to project himself as being superior in some way. Racism is how he best knows how to. Calling people monkeys and illiterate makes him feel more significant.
I personally don’t mind people being delusional about their superiority. This is until it leads to the grouping of individuals into a target for ridicule. For Eymael, this means that Tanzanians are no longer perceived in terms of their individual personalities, but in terms of generalised prejudices.
When that happens, people may project their own personal failings onto another group, as a strategy of avoiding responsibility. His lack of DStv and Wi-Fi become Eymael’s scapegoat. Individuals with strong paranoia traits are especially prone to this strategy, since they are unable to admit to any personal faults, and are especially likely to demonise others.
In other words, racism is a symptom of psychological ill-health – a sign of poor self-esteem. Unlike Luc Eymael, people with a strong inner security are not racist, because they have no need to strengthen their sense of self. They have no need to define themselves in distinction to – and in conflict with – others.
And I remember following the saga, I tweeted that he should be placed on a dhow and shoved in the direction of Goa. With hindsight, I should have said he needed a doctor. The man is sick.