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‘F*** racism!’: Swedish soccer players stand by beleaguered Turkish-origin teammate

Swedish national team soccer player Jimmy Durmaz reads a statement while teammates and coach Janne Andersson are seen in the background, June 24, 2018 in Gelendzhik, Russia. .
Swedish national team soccer player Jimmy Durmaz reads a statement while teammates and coach Janne Andersson are seen in the background, June 24, 2018 in Gelendzhik, Russia. . Jimmy Durmaz / Instagram

The Swedish soccer team rallied around midfielder Jimmy Durmaz after he was subjected to a torrent of racist abuse and death threats following his mistake in Sweden’s defeat to Germany in the FIFA World Cup on Saturday.

Durmaz, born in Sweden to Assyrian parents who emigrated from Turkey, conceded a late free-kick that was scored in stunning fashion by Germany star Toni Kroos, giving the Germans a crucial 2-1 victory.

Almost instantly, Durmaz’s Instagram account began to be flooded with racist comments and threats.

Sweden’s Jimmy Durmaz (number 21) looks dejected after Sweden’s 1-2 defeat to Germany in a FIFA World Cup group stages match at the Fisht Stadium in Sochi, Russia, June 23, 2018.
Sweden’s Jimmy Durmaz (number 21) looks dejected after Sweden’s 1-2 defeat to Germany in a FIFA World Cup group stages match at the Fisht Stadium in Sochi, Russia, June 23, 2018. REUTERS/Pilar Olivares

On Sunday, the Swedes showed their support for the 29-year-old, gathering behind him as he read a statement from his cellphone.

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“I am a footballer at the highest level, being criticized is something we live with. But when you threaten me and call me ‘Arab devil,’ ‘terrorist’, ‘Taliban,’ then you have gone beyond the limit. Even worse, when you go after my family, my children, threaten them. Who does such a thing? It’ is completely unacceptable,” Durmaz said in Swedish.

“I am Swedish, and I wear our shirt and our flag with pride. I want to thank the fine, wonderful people who spread joy. It warms us all. We stand united, we are Sweden.”

The squad then joined Durmaz in a collective shout of “F*** racism!” before applauding and jogging off to begin their training session.

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The Swedish Football Association called the abuse directed at Durmaz “unpleasant and very upsetting,” and said it had reported it to police.

Coach Janne Andersson said he stood behind Durmaz’s statement “100 per cent,” and said the squad would now concentrate on Wednesday’s match against Mexico.

A win over Mexico will guarantee Sweden passage from the group stages into the Round of 16.