French tennis star Jo Wilfried Tsonga says growing up he dealth with racism and he admits being in that position hurt him. Tsonga, 35, was born in Le Mans, France, and he says growing up he faced various forms of racism.
"Yes, I have been regularly confronted with racism, very regularly, and since my earliest childhood. And yet, I have a black dad, a white mom. I consider myself Black and White. I was one of the only children of an immigrant father in my elementary school.
I let you imagine the rest. I have been taught never to put this forward to make a claim, not to give grain to the ignorant. It is true that I never talk about it, but I am not naive about it," Tsonga told Franceinfo. "At first, it starts with little nicknames, at school.
I was very sensitive to these things. Then, there can be small insults, it is something quite latent, which is there but which one does not really see, but which the people concerned feel very strongly. Then, being internal to the National Training Center in the 16th arrondissement of Paris, I was often checked for my identity papers in the street, while my friends were never checked.
I was refused in establishments when my friends were allowed to enter. They said to me: "You, you do not enter, but you, you can enter" I saw my father who was sometimes treated with contempt or fear. It was painful for me."
Jo Wilfried Tsonga couldn't understand why he wasn't simply referred to as French Tsonga, ranked at No. 49 in the world, has been one of the most successful French tennis players over the last decade and a half.
The Frenchman, a former world No. 5, has won 18 ATP titles over the course of his career and he ended runner-up at the Australian Open in 2008. "At the start of my career, certain sports media called me out like Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, son of a Congolese father.
I did not understand why it was so important, when I was French. We already had 'Yannick Noah, the Franco-Cameroonian', but strangely we never heard 'Cédric Pioline, the Franco-Romanian'" Jo Wilfried Tsonga was limited to only two matches this year due to a! injury.