Prague, Czech Republic – Czech midfielder Tomáš Souček has issued a clarification following a controversial interview in which he appeared to defend Ondřej Kúdela, suspended for racist comments on the pitch.
“Two cultures collide” in Kudela controversy, says Souček
In an interview with local iDnes outlet published on Thursday, the West Ham midfielder weighed in on the controversy that has been agitating Czech (and British) football circles in recent months.
Commenting on the ban imposed by UEFA on Ondřej Kúdela, Souček said he “found it absurd”.
“I can’t imagine him saying anything racist. I see how sensitive the British are to racism every day. Two cultures collide because we think a little differently than they do,” he told Czech journalists in an interview widely shared in English-speaking media.
Ondřej Kúdela, a former teammate of Souček at Slavia Prague, was found guilty of racist comments against Glasgow Rangers defender Glen Kamara in March, and imposed a 10-match ban and suspended for the Euro 2020, which kicked off yesterday.
While saying he supported the fight against racism, he went on to denounce the “extreme” and “downright counterproductive” ways in which the British mindset approaches the issue.
Words taken “out of context and misunderstood”
“The Czech way of thinking is closer to me, so it’s hard to understand. I figure that if they keep looking for racism in everything, they can never get rid of it completely. On the contrary, they are harming themselves,” he continued. “One is almost too afraid to say anything at all so as not to offend or slander anyone. And I think that’s wrong.”
Souček, widely seen as one of the most promising Czech players on the European stage, took to Twitter the following day to clarify his comments, saying his words were taken “out of context and have been misunderstood.”
“I am against racism in any form and am proud to play in a sport that is so diverse and inclusive,” he wrote to defuse the controversy, which comes just a few days ahead of the Euro 2020 face-off between the Czech Republic and Scotland.
The Kúdela case has divided public opinion for months, pitting two opposing sides in a heated debate on racism, sportsmanship and Czech-British cultural differences.
While some see the incident as the latest example of lingering racism in Czech football circles (and more broadly, Czech society), others insist the controversy was blown out of proportion by “over-sensitive” British media, and claim the UEFA ban against Kúdela was disproportionate.
For more background on the issue, you can read our explainer’s piece.