Captain of Bermuda’s senior men’s football team Danté Leverock expresses his confidence making a swift return to professional football after racism forced him to cut short a brief but traumatic spell with a Polish club and return home.
The 28-year-old defender, in an interview with the Royal Gazette newspaper this weekend, said he contemplated quitting the game because of racial discrimination at Radomiak Radom, a second-tier outfit based 60 miles from the Polish capital Warsaw.
Leverock said he believed he was singled out because of his colour and treated differently from white players.
Leverock, who joined Radomiak Radom in February after a season with Irish outfit Sligo Rovers, severed ties with the Polish club because of “financial and cultural factors”.
“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,” Leverock recalled.
“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 (with Estonia’s JK Narva Trans). However, not having the support or understanding from the coaching staff or even your team-mates was more difficult to handle,” he added.
On many occasions, Leverock told the Gazette that he was left to feel like a second-class citizen and believed he was assigned a smaller hotel room than his teammates because of his ethnicity.
“Even staying in the team hotel, I was put in a smaller room compared to my teammates. 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,” he explained.
The global coronavirus pandemic left Leverock alone and stranded in Poland. He spent March in lockdown before he managed to return to Bermuda last month on an air-bridge flight.
“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,” the Bermudian skipper noted.
But Leverock said he was optimistic he would make a quick return to action.
“I’ve had some interest from clubs, but given that the (Bermuda) 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 are a major factor for me now at this point,” he added.