By: Mike Newell
I love the game of football, and all of the wonderful things that the game can stand for when treated with the utmost respect it deserves. However there is one aspect of the game that still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth and it has little to do with on pitch performance. In the 21st century it still at times baffles the mind that archaic ways of thinking could still penetrate the minds of a mass crowd, but yet it is proven week in and week out on football pitches all over the world. Of course I’m speaking about racist’s chants that could be heard every weekend in some of the top leagues in the world.
This is not the first time I’ve blogged on the issue, back when current Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli was still at Inter Milan he was the target of his own fans. The taunts came in many forms, from a small section of fans making “Ape noises” to chants of “Go home” (funny as Balotelli is an Italian citizen and plays for the Italian national squad) to having banana’s tossed at while taking a corner kick. At one point it was decided that the taunts were getting so out of hand we was benched when playing Juventus in Turin simply to spare him, and the league further embarrassment.
Balotelli’s case is unfortunately one in a long line of incidents which have plagued players of visible minority for decades now. While the world seems to be moving towards social inclusion of all races, religions and creeds it seems the “world’s game” is stuck in a perpetual state of Jim Crow attitudes.
FIFA have in its own way has tried to address the problem with its say no to racism program, however plenty more Needs to be done in order to really tackle this issue. For example there have been calls for clubs or national FA’s to have income producing home matches stripped or have those home matches played behind closed doors. The idea is that if you hit the club or FA in the pocket book it would force those organizations to work on cleaning up the behavior of its supporters. The idea stems from the 5 year European competition ban for English clubs in the aftermath of the 1985 Heysel disaster during the height of hooliganism that plagued the game for 10 year previous. The punishment which was supported by then PM Margaret Thatcher was thought as part of the catalyst for change of how supporters approached football, and how administrators handled supporters.
Could a similar type of ban work for FA’s in the case of racism? The signs point to yes, however there of course social factors in countries that football simply can’t fix on its own. To this day I know of no FA that has banned home supporters due to racism in the stands, fines? Yes, light slaps on the wrist? Yes but no overarching strategy to combat the disease. England and Germany make have the most forward looking programs, but they still fall short of concrete measures for punishment.
Star Inter Milan striker Samuel E’to has been on the end of abuse or years now both in Italy and his spell in Spain with Barcelona. He stated in an interview with CNN that that racism is so widespread in Spain that he no longer dares take his family to matches.
“Racism can happen anywhere and I don’t want them to see it,” “It’s a sad situation in football. In my opinion the problem is getting bigger and the people that should come up with a solution are not doing it. So to protect my family, I don’t take them to the game.”
E’to when on to say, “We can’t wait until some crazy fan jumps from his seat and kills a black player before measures are taken. The players are revolted by it and we try to help each other. But the authorities must find a way to set an example.”
So the question becomes, when do the football authorities start to take this issue as seriously as say video replay or diving? I do not say this in jest because both of the aforementioned issues have received more attention in the past 12 months than racism in the game. These words are coming of arguably the best striker on the planet, yet no action is taken. Today another player stepped forward to claimed racial abuse. French international striker Djibril Cisse had been targeted in Greece with inflatable bananas and more ape noises. We’ll wait to see what either FIFA, UEFA or the Greek league do about this. However history indicates not much.
Football needs a shakeup in regards to this, I don’t know if it has to be a massive racial incident at something like the World Cup or Euro final, or god forbid someone dying over it at a pitch, but something has to give. The game has to destroy this as aggressively as it did hooliganism in the 80 and early 90’s. Or face losing the fans that truly made football a global game.