FIFA mute on racism but need a change of stance
It is a shame that UEFA and FIFA’s romanticist attitude in selecting the host nations for major tournaments has thrust up some unsavoury talking points and truly hideous incidents. Their favouritism towards selecting ‘blossoming’ nations to run the show, and not necessarily the obvious choice has frequently blinded them to the underlying issues that we are all eventually made aware of. Russia and Qatar’s respective future World Cup hosting debuts have thrust up some lively discussion with regards to climate in both cases, and the quality of the football team in the latter, whereas joint Euro 2012 hosts Poland and Ukraine have surfaced an all the more messy issue – racism.
As much as the governing bodies don’t like to admit it, racism is a prominent part of football in the modern day. Cases are cropping up all the time, from player-to-player abuse, to fans throwing bananas onto the pitch or making vociferous monkey impressions, and we can’t ignore it. Unfortunately, that is exactly what FIFA have decided to do.
In countries like Poland and Ukraine, where elements of Nazism and social segregation remain, such behaviour is common. Whilst only a minority of people engage in vile acts of emotional torment, something players are finding increasingly difficult to tolerate, letting it slide and trying to flick it off the shoulder is not the right way to go about it. FIFA’s ‘playing it down’ stance may aid them to sleep comfortably at night, but the players are the victims in this and they need to be protected.
Manchester City and Italy’s Mario Balotelli stated before Euro 2012 that should anybody racially abuse him during the tournament, he will walk off the pitch and go home. Whilst that would be understandable, it is not down to the players to take action. Simply ignoring it is FIFA’s prerogative but not their duty, but for players, showing signs of strength and resistance to these ignorant nomads is a hardy way to deter the treatment they sporadically endure, an argument shared by AC Milan midfielder and pundit Clarence Seedorf on ITV early in the tournament.
Allowing a small smattering of uneducated trouble makers to get under the skin will only act as a spur for more incidents to happen. Clearly, having never been a victim of racial abuse, it is impossible for me to sympathise and understand exactly how offensive and hurtful it can be, and it is by no means an easy thing for a player to deal with. But we have got to the stage now where ignoring it may be the only thing to do. If players start taking things into their own hands by walking off pitches, refusing to play or making themselves unavailable for selection, not only will we lose the pleasure of watching the world’s best players on the biggest stage, but FIFA’s authority will be undermined and player rebellion will be a very realistic circumstance.
Sepp Blatter and his circus of clowns have failed to engage with players, failed to understand the seriousness of the situation and have shown a complete absence of common sense and sensitivity. They cannot expect this problem to merely filter away over time. It will linger like a chesty cough for well past the foreseeable future if they remain nonchalant and decide that hiding the issue will squash this minority of people. Identify the problem and stamp it out. Zero tolerance – that’s the only way to win.