LONDON – Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba said the best way to quell racist spectators is to perform well on the pitch, and not walk off as some suggest, if there is racial abuse.
The 26-year-old was a pivotal figure as France won the World Cup last year, and said in an interview with The Times that nothing wins people around better than success.
Pogba is expected to start against Andorra in Euro 2020 qualifying on Tuesday night and played 90 minutes in a loss in Turkey on Saturday, when the home fans caused outrage in France by jeering the Marseillaise.
Racism reared its head last season with Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling being abused by a group of Chelsea fans.
Then Sterling and other black England players were the targets of Montenegro supporters in a Euro 2020 qualifier.
One of those players, Tottenham Hotspur defender Danny Rose, said he “can’t wait to see the back of football” because of the lack of decisive action to tackle racism.
Rose said he was “shocked” at the lightness of Uefa’s punishment in ordering Montenegro to play just one game behind closed doors.
Pogba told the newspaper he had once handed his Juventus shirt to a fan who had been making monkey noises at him.
“Leave the pitch? You want to play, you want to score for your team,” said Pogba. “And at the end, they (racist abusers) will come and ask for a picture.”
Pogba also responded to critics who say he has not justified his then-world record £89.3 million move from Juventus in 2016.
“I become another player because of the transfer,” he said. “Because it was the biggest transfer of history at the time, you get judged differently.
“You expect more because of the price tag. A good game becomes a normal game, a top game will be a good game.”
He proved a popular target when United started poorly last season under Jose Mourinho. Critics contrasted Pogba’s outstanding World Cup performances with those for his club.
He also came under fire as United’s early good form under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – who replaced Mourinho when the latter was sacked in December – tailed off at the end of the campaign.
As a result, United finished sixth and missed out on Champions League football.
However, Pogba can point to being the only player selected in the Premier League team of the season to come from outside the top two – champions Manchester City and Liverpool.
He believes his appearance – various styles of haircuts and his body language on the pitch – plays a role in his being pilloried.
— Paul Pogba (@paulpogba)
“I always play like that and, thank God, I won the World Cup like that,” said Pogba. “Body language, haircut, all these things is just to speak. Since I was a kid, I play like this.
“It’s not a problem when we win. Only when we lose or if I have a bad performance, it becomes a problem.”
Pogba, who scored 13 goals in 35 Premier League appearances last season, says he has not changed as a person despite his success, and becoming one of the highest-earning footballers in the world.
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— Paul Pogba (@paulpogba)
“I am still the Paul I used to be as a kid,” he said. “I grow, I become taller, but I am the same person who follows his dream.
“People will love me like that. People will hate me like that.”