Monaco’s Keita Balde has said he will pay rent for 200 seasonal workers who have been sleeping rough in the city of Lleida, claiming racism has seen local hotels refuse to help.
Balde, 25, was born in Catalonia but plays for Senegal, the country of origin for many of those who pick fruit in the Lleida region.
“They’ve been sleeping in the street, without food, without anything,” he said on Instagram on Monday. “They work 12 hours a day, they haven’t even stopped because of coronavirus. Most of them are Senegalese, and I wanted to help, to do what I can. I’m not looking for conflict…
“I just want to find solutions. I’ve helped with food, accommodation, and clothing. I wanted to do it anonymously, but I had to speak out to be able to find a place for them to stay.”
He said he has already found a building to accommodate 90 people.
“We’ve found the first location and we’re looking for the second now,” he said. “I was born in Catalonia, I played for Barca, then I moved to Italy, now I’m in France, and I’ve never had any problems with racism or insults. The important thing is your values. We need to work together and that’s how the world will improve.”
The Lleida-based activist Nogay Ndiaye, who is working with Balde, said racism from local hoteliers has made the situation more complicated.
“There are hotels which prefer to be closed rather than to accommodate black people and that’s the biggest insult,” she said. “It seemed like football might be the only way to open doors, and now we’re finding that even that isn’t enough for them to be treated as people. Some have said no outright; others have given their reasons, most of them racist; and others simply haven’t responded.”
Balde had previously donated €17,000 to help treat coronavirus in Senegal.