Shamik Das


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Time for FIFA to take real action against racism

"Hear, hear, hear!"

FINE words, but is anyone listening?

Black players abused at football matches in Spain and Italy, in club and international matches alike - with far worse abuse hurled at them in Eastern Europe - Champions League, UEFA Cup, league games, friendlies and qualifiers, on the abuse goes, yet still the governing bodies do little to stop it.

Time and again FIFA and UEFA, when faced with racist chanting, booing and whistling, and in some grounds the equally repellent spectacle of Neo-Nazi banners and salutes, have shied away from taking action.

Instead of points deductions, closed-door orders and expulsions from European Championships and World Cups, all FIFA and UEFA have done is to issue paltry fines of no more than a few thousand pounds to national associations whose fans have misbehaved.

And it's not just with teams that the authorities have been soft - racist players and managers have got off scot free as well. Think back to 2000, when Lazio's Serbian midfielder Sinisa Mihajlovic received nothing more than a short ban for calling Arsenal's Patrick Vieira a "black s***", though he was made to issue a grovelling apology in front his own fans at the Stadio Olimpico, during which he was heckled by the Ultras.

Luis Aragones    Sinisa Mihajlovic

More recently, former Spain coach Luis Aragones wasn't even given a slap on the wrist for referring to Thierry Henry in the same derogatory terms, fined only £2,000 by the Spanish FA, retained as their manager and not forced to say sorry; that he went on to lead Spain to Euro 2008 glory merely rubs salt into the wounds.

FIFA must have been grateful that Italy's terrible performances in the Confederations Cup spared them the sight of the world and European champions standing shoulder-to-shoulder behind the "Say no to Racism" banner last night, though the irony of such an image would not have been lost on them, seeded as Spain and Italy were to meet in the
semi-finals.

When it comes to the crunch, the European and world governing bodies simply do not have the bottle to take the tough decisions and punish the wrongdoers, focusing instead on criticising the Premier League for its wealth - as UEFA President Michel Platini has done - or fantasising about scantily-clad girls in short shorts, FIFA supremo Sepp Blatter's solution to increasing the popularity of the women's game.

For all their words and initiatives, for all the anti-racism campaigns in the world, it will not make a jot of difference until FIFA and UEFA hit the racists where it hurts - on the pitch and in the pocket.

By their actions be they judged.

Highlights: Spain 0-2 USA
FIFA: Say no to Racism and Confederations Cup websites
Coming soon: Confederations Cup review

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