Football collectable card of KV Mechelen (Source: X).
Football collectable card of KV Mechelen (Source: X).

Paul Beloy

A Beacon for Inclusivity

Born in Kinshasa in 1957 (“Belgian Congo” at that time), Paul Beloy’s journey through life is a tapestry woven with threads of migration, discrimination, and eventual triumph. His father, an ambitious nurse, secured a scholarship to pursue his studies of medicine in Belgium, taking along young Paul, only four years old, and his sister. While his father immersed himself in studies, Paul and his sister found themselves under the care of two devoted women in Mechelen, who rather unexpectedly became their primary caregivers.

Beginnings

What began as temporary refuge, blossomed into a profound long-term commitment, with these women assuming the role of surrogate parents for Paul. Even as his father completed his studies and ventured to Geneva after specialization at the Sorbonne in Paris, the bond between Paul, his sister, and the Mechelen women endured, a testament to their unwavering dedication.

Teenager in the spotlight

Paul’s love for football burgeoned swiftly. At just sixteen, his standout performances on Mechelen’s school team caught the eye of 1st division football club KV Mechelen scouts. Yet, his ascent in the sport was not without its challenges. As one of the few black players in Belgium, Paul faced recognition tinged with judgment, navigating years where racism reared its ugly head both on and off the field.

Together ‘van Beerschot’?

Transitioning from KV Mechelen to Beerschot, Paul found solace in a team that embraced diversity and talent irrespective of nationality. On the field, players shed their national identities to embody the collective spirit of ‘van Beerschot’ (EN: ‘from Beerschot’). However, the stands failed to mirror this diversity.

Active for the community and the future

Paul’s commitment to diversity extended beyond the football pitch. As the ‘community manager’ at Beerschot, he championed inclusivity not only within the club but also within broader societal contexts. Recognizing the hurdles faced by diverse communities in areas like education, media, and business, Paul tirelessly advocated for respect, clear communication, and parental involvement to address issues such as tardiness, emphasizing the necessity of a nationwide approach. Moreover, he has participated in 2014 in local elections for the Antwerp Social Democrat part.

Addressing the “Dirty Black” slur

In his role as a coordinator for foreign-speaking newcomers at a high school in Hoboken (a district of Antwerp), Paul shed light on the integration challenges faced by young people from various backgrounds in Belgian society. Through his book “Vuile Zwarte” (EN: “Dirty Black”) he wrote together with sports journalist Frank Van Laeken, Paul offers a critical examination of racism in football, exposing appalling instances of discriminatory behaviour within the sport. He delves into the systemic structures perpetuating racism on and off the field, highlighting its detrimental effects on players’ mental and emotional well-being. Through personal anecdotes and victim testimonies, “Dirty Black” advocates for systemic change, emphasising the importance of awareness and education in combating racism and fostering a more inclusive sporting environment.

Thinking points

At the heart of Paul Beloy’s message lies a resounding truth: diversity enriches society but demands collective effort, particularly from policymakers. His call for increased immigrant representation in policy positions across sectors underscores the imperative of inclusive governance.

Reflecting on his own journey, Paul remains steadfast in his mission to reshape perceptions of diversity and combat discrimination. His story serves as a poignant reminder of the struggles inherent in integration, tempered by the indomitable spirit of resilience. Paul Beloy stands as a beacon in the ongoing fight for a truly inclusive society.

Educators working with young people can work with this story to explore:

  • How do newcomers in society today experience inclusion?
  • How has football matures since Beloy’s time on the pitch?
  • What kind of organisation in and outside football works to create a more inclusive society?

Find out more

You can follow and engage Paul Beloy directly on Instagram. Education and Youth NGO Don Bosco has a profile on him (in Dutch). Het Nederlands Dagblad has a thorough review of this book “Vuile Zwarte” (in Dutch). Podcast TalkswithCharly spoke with Paul Beloy in many details about his life, available on YouTube (in Dutch). The Belgian FA also included Paul’s story in their 125 year anniversary book (2020).

Photo Gallery

Story of a life migrating from Congo to Belgium, facing racism on and off the pitch and finding new ways to enact positive change.

Life Story 126

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Football collectable card of KV Mechelen (Source: X).
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