Sunderland stars past and present opened up about their experiences of racism to youngsters from South Tyneside at a special educational event.
Youngsters from Marsden Primary and Laygate Community schools were at the Stadium of Light yesterday for the Show Racism the Red Card-organised day of events.
The Year Five and Six pupils took part in a series of workshops and also watched a screening of a film featuring former Premier League players such as Ryan Giggs and Les Ferdinand.
They then got to put questions to SAFC players Steven Pienaar and Papy Djilobodji as well as Show Racism the Red Card (SRtRC) ambassador and former Black Cats skipper Gary Bennett.
Midfielder Steven, who joined SAFC last year, told the audience: “Coming from South Africa I did experience racism growing up and it’s not nice.
“It’s always important that when you get home you tell your mum or dad or a teacher about it so something can be done.
“But yes, it hurts a lot if you get abuse.”
Former Sunderland skipper Gary said: “Anyone can suffer from racism. It doesn’t matter what skin colour they are, what culture, religion or nationality they have.
“It’s usually something who is in the minority who is affected.
“When people ask me how racism makes me feel I’d say it’s ‘uncomfortable.”
Marsden Primary teacher Michael O’Brien said pupils from the school had been able to take a lot away from the day’s events.
He said: “They’ve had a great time.
“The pupils have really been able to engage with the Show Racism the Red Card staff and it’s made them think about how racism affects them.
“They’ve been in a different environment with a different group of people, but they’ve still been able to focus.
“They’ve given everything a good go and learned a lot.”
The anti-racism charity was created in 1996 and now delivers training to more than 50,000 individuals per year.
James Kingett, campaign worker with the organisation, said: “It’s great that the pupils have been involved throughout the day and had the chance to hear from Papy and Steven. “Hopefully they’ve learned that it’s OK to talk about racism and its problems, as long as it’s done in the right way.”