So here we are in 2013, a modern society where people are brought together by the beautiful game of football. But unfortunately, checking the football headlines when I woke up the other day, an old problem that is becoming far too familiar in the game was once again in the news. To no one’s surprise, there were 2 new incidents of fans and clubs being punished for racist behavior at matches.
1 of these incidents involves a man of 53, Gerrad Scanlon from England, who has been fined a mere £425 and banned from The Den (home of Millwall) for racially abusing Leeds United striker El-Hadji Diouf. The other involves Lazio, who have been ordered to play 2 games behind closed doors and fined pittance in terms of a £35,000 fine for racist behavior amongst their fans following a Europa League match-up against Borussia Monchengladbach.
Now, unless you’re have been hiding under a football stadium for the last few years, racism and football used in the same sentence won’t be something you are unfamiliar with hearing in today’s game unfortunately. What worse for Lazio is that they have already been involved in familiar incidents this season, let alone the needless self-tagged “ULTRA” hooligans that seem to be going on rampages on about a monthly basis.
So UEFA have given them their punishment and everything will be fine from now on of course; I think not. The embarrassing thing is that in both cases, the punishing verdicts issued by a Magistrates court in England (which has nothing to do with the game) and UEFA is less than a slap on the wrist.
Let me use this point to remind you that UEFA, the union body of European football, have recently handed the Serbian football association a fine of £65,000 pounds and ordered their Under-21s to play a game behind closed doors. This came as a result of 90 minutes of booing and monkey chants in their game against England Under-21s in October 2012 at Krusevac.
With everybody aware of the money in today’s game, ask yourselves, are these punishments fair? Have UEFA done enough to say racism is not to be tolerated in the game, and are these punishments going to stop future occurrences?
I can easily tell you the answer is quite simply a no. The fines, for a start, just in these 2 instances with UEFA, are close to nothing, and the stadium bans for the fans are not long enough to stop future occurrences. I think the fines should be in the £100,000′s, and the bans should be half a season or longer; it’s the only way it is going to make people think before they act.
Meanwhile, some of you will be thinking about the innocent fans who are being punished. This is a necessary action, because we are essentially heading back towards the earlier years, before where the beautiful game was rife with racist and despicable behavior towards players.
I can recall incidents this past weekend, such as that of Mario Balotelli being racially abused while playing for Milan by people of the country he plays for! There have been incidents in the majority of countries leagues in the last few months, alongside a few high-profile cases involving Luis Suarez and John Terry, both of whom were punished for using racist language on the field of play. Quite honestly, the list of pages of racial punishments and incidents would shamefully be pages and pages long.
The terrible thing is that we have incidents put in front of us like these and reported across media outlets across multiple countries every day, and yet it is something that still happens in society today, 90% of which still goes unreported. In some cases, it is the poor education of accepting people outside their own cultures, but in others, its is pure naivety. They simply are not thinking straight when they abuse someone for being different than themselves, and unfortunately some people just aren’t very nice and like causing people distress.
Regarding the behavior of fans, the game has come a long way since reports of racism on the field were first written down. Many countries have some fantastic charities whose goal is to stop racism, such as “Kick It Out” and “Show Racism the Red Card.” Other charities include the European football charity, “FARE” (Football Against Racism in Europe), and individual charities in most top leagues.
The “Kick It Out” campaign in England is well known for their t-shirts, worn by players during warm-up before a match (with the exception of some individuals). Joleon Lescott, a Manchester City and England defender, has refused to wear the “Kick It Out” t-shirt since 2007 after alleged abuse of Everton teammate Joseph Yobo, and like Lescott, Rio Ferdinand, Jason Roberts, Micah Richards, and Kenwyne Jones are amongst the players refusing to join the show of support for the project.
The racism issue is not exactly receding, so as lovers of the game, let’s hope we can work together with the footballing authorities, wake up a bit, and start acting more severely. We don’t want the people who are causing this unnecessary distress to players and fans to ruin it for the rest of us.
Written by @chalkonyaboots