Georginio Wijnaldum had an evening to remember for the Netherlands on Tuesday.
Not only did the Liverpool midfielder captain his country in the absence of Virgil Van Dijk, he also scored his first ever international hat-trick in a 5-0 win over Estonia.
His biggest statement on the night, however, came in the sixth minute of the game, when he celebrated his first goal with a powerful anti-racism message.
The 29-year-old had just headed home from the edge of the six yard box when he ran to the cameras on the touchline, held out his arm next to that of his teammate, Frenkie de Jong, and pointed to the colors of their skin.
—Optus Sport (@OptusSport) November 19, 2019
The message was in response to reported racial abuse of a black player in the Eredivisie at the weekend.
Ahmad Mendes, who plays for Excelsior Rotterdam, said he was called a “negro and a cotton-picker” by Den Bosch fans at the Van Donge & De Roo Stadion on Sunday, according to the BBC.
The game was stopped for 10 minutes, and the BBC reports that Dutch authorities are now investigating.
“It really hit me on a personal level,” Wijnaldum told the Liverpool Echo in response to the incident.
“I never expected anything like this to happen in the Netherlands. I'm really shocked. It did happen, unfortunately, and the way people have talked about the incident really hurt me.
“It's a problem in society. As a player, you can't really change anything about it. But I still think that players should try and support each other. It's a problem in society and a problem that should be solved by our politicians.”
Netherlands manager Ronald Koeman said Wijnaldum told him about the planned gesture prior to the game, adding that it was “nice to see,” according to the BBC.
—Gini Wijnaldum (@GWijnaldum) November 19, 2019
Wijnaldum's hat-trick saw him become the first midfielder to score a trio of goals for the Netherlands since Johan Neeskens in 1972.