There are some uncomfortable realities that still exist in football, racism, sexism and homophobia still cause havoc in the beautiful game. The way Yaya Toure was treated in Russia was a total disgrace and the reaction of the accused fans was appalling, the “Do me favour” attitude towards women has not changed and there is only one player in the world who has come out. The temptation is to blame FIFA as it usually is but that is too easy, first thee fans behaviour needs to be assessed. This week’s blogs deals with racism.
Racism in the 1960’s to the late 1980’s was embedded into the psyche of this country, the supporters would regularly abuse anyone of a non-white race from the terraces. When black players first entered the English footballing arena they would expect and too some extent accept banana skins been thrown at them. Luckily this in the main has gone from English football and fans are by enlarge tolerant and accepting of all cultures. You only have to look at the reaction to Luis Suarez when he racially abused Patrice Evra, no fan applauded him but took the opposite stance and the FA subsequently handed out a large ban. Fans no longer chant “Yido” or “You Black B—-rd” but instead “You Fat B—-rd”. Cultural attitudes take at least thirty years to change and never without any exemption change overnight. Yaya Toure was exceptionally brave in his reaction to the racist abuse he suffered in Russia, it takes a courageous footballer to come out from the shadows and say what he did. The English fans all united round Toure and were very defensive about the Manchester City midfielder. What was less satisfactory and quite frightening was that the international community laughed at the English , racism is a feature of Italian football just ask Mario Ballotelli and is a regular occurrence in La Liga. It’s in these countries more than most that FIFA needs to have a zero tolerance policy towards racism. Education is key to driving cultural change as is however basic this may sound to force , black, white and Asians to mix to blow away the ignorance cob webs. If clubs need to be fined £1 million and relegated two divisions for racist abuse to force them to act, then so be it!
FIFA needs to develop a clear no nonsense policy towards racism, one strike and you are out. None of this £100,000 fine nonsense because clubs really couldn’t care. Moscow as a club got off without a scratch, why were they not chucked out of the Champions League? FIFA and UEFA are weak and don’t just stick their heads in the sand they live under the sand. Russian football has a racism problem and will do until they are forced to get their act together. Without the real threat of sanctions they will not get their act together so perhaps its football’s governing body that needs to get their act together.
Now you can be sure that anti-racism campaigns such as “KICK IT OUT!” and “Show Racism the Red Card” have achieved success but that success has not fully dealt with racism. Campaigns are about changing the perception as much as they are about changing the reality. They are a bit like the don’t drink and drive adverts that hit TV screens at Christmas, how much difference do they truly make? Of course the leaders of these anti- racism campaigns are to be talked about in glowing terms but there is no one solution to this problem, there are many. Now is the time when campaigns of any kind will start to become to outdated and unsophisticated , the next steps need to be taken. FIFA should embark on a three point programme : Education, Zero Tolerance and Maximum Punishment. Education at grass root level across the footballing world will take ten to fifteen years to work but by the time the average five year old gets to be twenty they will understand that racism is unacceptable, this should be rolled out across education systems. A Zero Tolerance message would send at a clear signal that the footballing world does not accept racism in any form. Maximum Punishment: relegations, million pound fined and a transfer should all be employed when necessary. Without follow through the warnings become irrelevant.
Jose Mourniho will always give eager journalists an articulate response and love him or hate his response are rarely without substance. On the subject of rascism he said this “”I respect his [Touré’s] opinion, but I disagree. The history of football was made equally by many races. And the black players have a fantastic contribution of what football is. You go to the World Cup, the World Cup is the biggest expression of national team competitions – races, people from different parts of the globe, people from every continent. And the black players are very, very important for that.Who is more important, the billions of people in love with the game around the world? Or a few thousand that go to football stadiums and have disgraceful behaviour in relation to black players!”This long quote perfectly illustrates, that this time The Special One is right. By boycotting World Cups black players are saying to racists, you have won. This is wrong players of all races need to stand up to the problem of racism and not hide waiting for it to go away. Racism is a disgrace, that needs to be obliterated with relish not allowed to dictate the shape of World Cups. The game must finally show a lifetime ban to this unpleasantness. Boycotting sends out the wrong and is the equivalent of raising a white flag, that must not happen.
Mandela valued sports ability to unite the world and help drive important change. In the twenty first century racism needs to finally fizzle out into the nothingness which it represents. Supporters who give racist abuse should get lifetime bans from all stadiums and also have their passports taken from them. Clubs need to be punished effectively and properly from now on to stop racism. Education needs to teach respect for all races and religions throughout the world. Let’s end with a modern phrase, FIFA needs to man up!