A Pennsylvania teen who moved from West Africa three years ago was bullied by opposing players during a soccer game last week with remarks related to the Ebola virus. Two of the coaches from the opposing team have since resigned.
Last Thursday, when Nazareth Area High School’s soccer team in Nazareth, Penn., played Northampton Area High School, it was reported that Northampton players taunted the West African teen who plays for Nazareth, chanting “Ebola” and making comments that they hoped the teen contracted the Ebola virus. The young man, Ibrahim Toumkara, was so upset by the remarks that he charged at one of the opposing players and was ejected from the game. The teen was still so upset later in the week that he declined to participate in a playoff game that weekend.
Toumkara hails from Guinea and, with his parents still living in a small village there, he remains concerned about his family’s health and fears for their well-being in the wake of the Ebola crisis in the region. He was taken in two years ago by Edward Bachert and his family. Bachert told reporters that the young man cried at his kitchen table after the game.
In response to the bullying, the boy’s fellow Nazareth soccer teammates have started wearing wristbands with the hashtag #EndRacism. They are also selling the wristbands for $2 and using social media to promote the message.
Both high schools have since conducted investigations into the incident, which have led to the Northampton team’s head coach and assistant coach resigning this week. In addition, Joseph Kovalchik, Northampton Superintendent, has stated that appropriate disciplinary action will be taken against any students who made the taunting remarks.
A Twitter account belonging to a person named Isaac Bachert, from Nazareth Area High School, appears to be that of the son of the West African teen’s guardian. Various tweets of support for the 16-year-old West African soccer player after the Ebola bullying episode that came from Isaac Bachert’s account have included tweets about the Northampton coach resigning, and the hope that the team now gets the “discipline they deserve” for attacking the tweeter’s brother. The tweet ended with “We’re with you Ibrahim #EndRacism.” Other tweets said, “Even though I know some Northampton players. It’s sad that the others have to resort to racism to feel better. Show some class.” He has also retweeted other messages of support including, “At a loss for words right now. The only good thing that’s coming from this ignorance is awareness to a real issue #EndRacism,” and “This just shows that Ebola isn’t something to joke about and it can hurt people not just with sickness but also inside #EndRacism.”
Tweets from other accounts with the hashtag #EndRacism that appear to be related to the incident include “Ignorance at an all-time high,” and “This is very pathetic, and unacceptable at any level–but especially in high school!!!” as well as “Northampton’s soccer team should be embarrassed, ashamed, and regretful for their actions. There is no excuse #EndRacism.” An account appearing to belong to a fellow teammate included the tweet “Can’t believe what happened. Northampton is a disgrace to the game. Tauntin (sic) my teammate with racist comments and chants.”
Toumkara was interviewed by a local news station about the incident. He simply stated “They just need to learn how to give other people respect.”
By Jennifer Fernicola Ronay
Photo by Steven Depolo – Flickr license