Polish experience pushes Leverock to brink
The captain of the Bermuda football team has claimed he contemplated quitting the game because of racial discrimination during a turbulently brief spell in Poland.
Danté Leverock said he believed he was singled out because of his colour and treated differently from white players at second-tier Radomiak Radom, about 60 miles south of the Polish capital Warsaw.
Leverock, who joined the club in February, severed ties with them because of “financial and cultural factors”.
He said: “The city is not the most diverse and forward-thinking place in the world when it comes to people of colour.
“When I looked around and saw swastika graffiti, I quickly realised I’d have to be mentally strong if I was going to stay.
“Being stared at when walking in the street and followed around by security in stores is something I’m used to, having previously played in Eastern Europe.
“However, not having the support or understanding from the coaching staff or even your team-mates was more difficult to handle.”
He added: “You realise you’re being treated differently when you and the only other foreign player are being singled out by the team.
“As a Muslim, he had to eat certain foods and had certain traditions which were not respected at all.
“He left a month before me and said he had experienced this type of treatment for a long time — sitting alone because other players don’t want to sit next to you.”
Leverock said he felt like a second-class citizen at times and believes he was assigned a smaller hotel room than his team-mates because of his race.
The 28-year-old said: “Even staying in the team hotel, I was put in a smaller room compared to my team-mates.”
Leverock added: “They signed a new player from Poland and he was even put in a proper room before me.
“I have an open mind and understand people have different views, but it was definitely the most difficult experience of my career and made me want to never play football again.”
The Covid-19 pandemic left Leverock alone and stranded in Poland. He spent March in lockdown before he managed to return to Bermuda last month.
Leverock said: “I felt I dealt with the situation as well as I possibly could, being alone in Poland with little to no support from the team and having to find ways of travelling back home when the world was shut down. It was an experience I’ll never forget.”
Out-of-contract players, especially those at the base of the football pyramid, have been particularly vulnerable to unemployment during the pandemic.
But Leverock said he was optimistic he would make a swift return to the professional ranks.
The defender added: “It’s very difficult for an athlete because of the sudden halt in training and competing, more so the uncertainty of not knowing when sport will be safe to play again.
“However, in this case, sport is minuscule on a global scale when human life needs to be protected. In terms of football, all I can say is there’s a lot of uncertainty.”
Leverock explained: “I’ve had some interest from clubs, but given that the airport is closed, it’s difficult to finalise anything in terms of a new team.
“I’m always open to try new countries; however, my next choice of team will be a careful one, as I will be looking to settle down and the country’s cultural ideals is a major factor for me now at this point.”
Leverock hopes to continue playing for several more years, but the precarious nature of the profession has been underlined over the past few months.
He added: “This pandemic has put a lot of things into perspective for me and, yes, ideally I would love to continue playing into my thirties. However, this is not certain.
“Preparation for when I’m finished playing was something that I always took seriously, but after Covid-19 it has gone into overdrive.
“I want to come back to Bermuda and make a huge difference in the community, helping athletes to reach the next level.
“My aim right now is to find a team at the highest level possible and play as many games as I can while helping Bermuda reach the Concacaf Gold Cup again. After that only time will tell.”
Radomiak Radom could not be reached for comment yesterday.
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