Smith: I quit club because of racism
Jonté Smith has revealed he quit a Vietnamese club because of racial discrimination just four days after being offered a lucrative contract.
The Bermuda striker was offered £15,000 a month (about $21,000) to play in Vietnam in 2016, but was left stunned when he and the club’s other black players were made to warm up away from the rest of the team.
Smith, who now plays for English non-League side Lewes, and the two other black players were also ordered to eat separately after the training session.
The 23-year-old spoke of his ordeal to The Guardian as part of a group of athletes discussing racism, sexism and inequalities in sport. They included Lewes women’s goalkeeper Faye Baker, javelin thrower Goldie Sayers, former world champion badminton player Gail Emms and wheelchair racer Anne Wafula.
“I got an offer to play in Vietnam when I was 20, 21, for a ridiculous amount of money — £15,000 a month after tax,” Smith said.
“I left after four days. The very first day I went to warm up with the rest of the team, and I was told I had to warm up over there with two other African players.
“It gets worse. After the game, I pick up my food and sit down with them and they say, ‘No, you have to sit over there with the African players’.
“I wouldn’t have stayed for anything.”
Smith is now paid £200 a week for Lewes, who play in the Bostik League South Division — the seventh tier of English football. The Sussex club, a semi-professional outfit, were the first in the country to pay its male and female teams equally, with Smith and Baker both proud of the club’s ground-breaking initiative.
“There are now more young girls coming in to train,” said Smith, a second-half substitute in a 1-1 draw at home to Walton Casuals at the weekend. “And that’s how you start.”
Baker, who is also a lawyer, added: “A lot of people still feel it’s a man’s sport. It’s just nice to be at a club where you’re on an equal playing field, and for the men’s team not to have their nose out of joint about it.
“Look at a club like Man City. Will the women ever get paid the same as their male players? And if the men go all the way through the leagues, will our equality stick?”
Smith, the son of Clay Smith, the Bermuda cricket coach, rejoined Lewes last season from Vanarama National League side Welling United. Since being released by Crawley Town in 2014, Smith has played for five different teams in three different countries.
He had two goal-laden years in Scandinavia at Kemi Kings of Finland and Norwegian side Floy before returning to England in 2015 after joining Gloucester City in the Vanarama National League North.
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