Soccer is a beautiful game. Let me rephrase that – soccer could be a beautiful game, if fans were to refrain from racist gestures, slurs, and chants.
The Euro 2012 tournament has been fantastic so far and I have no doubt that it will continue to provide more entertaining soccer in the games to come. There’s nothing better than an international competition in which supporters come out decorated in their country’s colours, sing the nation’s anthem, and cheer on their players as if in war representing their home land.
Wait a minute! War? Battle? That is exactly what it is not supposed to be but is transforming into.
Michel Platini, the UEFA President, is against racism as is any normal, accepting and appreciative human being of other cultures. Before the tournament Platini stated, “Zero tolerance for racism. If a referee decides to suspend a match, UEFA will support his decision.” However, there have been a number of racist acts that have occurred during games and not once was a game suspended.
The tournament got off to a discouraging start when the Netherlands claimed stated that their players were victims of racial slurs during training sessions.
This was followed up by Gebre Selassie, the first Black player to represent the Czech Republic, complaining of racial chants and slurs directed at him by fans during games he has played.
The Italian team has also suffered acts of racism. The first occurrence took place during the Italian national anthem, which was jeered by Spanish supporters. In addition, Mario Balotelli – who has a reputation of being slightly temperamental – complained about racist slurs against him during the match.
The Spanish league has a history of foolish spectators chanting racist remarks towards African players – just ask Samuel Eto’o. The former Barcelona player complained of racism during his time in Spain. For example, during a match with Zaragoza in 2006, the Cameroonian was racially abused and decided to exit the pitch during the match, saying “no more, no more, no more.” Unfortunately there appears to be a group of Spanish supporters who have continued these actions.
Furthermore and even worse in my opinion, during the crucial Italy-Croatia match, Balotelli was once again the bull’s eye for racist chants and gestures. The Croatians, or fans disguised as Croatia supporters with the famous red and white checkered tops, launched a banana peel at the Italian international at the moment he was substituted while also chanting racist comments. They are also accused of using Nazi style salutes in the crowd. This is in addition to the dangerous acts of throwing flares onto the pitch after the equaliser was scored.
Mr. “Zero tolerance against racism” Platini has urged the spectators of Wroclaw and Varsavia, Poland to demonstrate respect and dignity, and to display exemplary behaviour.
This is not zero tolerance. Something needs to be done to put an end to the racism. It is not fair that these players experience this as it is already psychologically tough to represent your country under pressure to qualify, let alone hearing these extremely rude comments while you are trying to do your job.
Croatia has already been fined € 25 000 after fans threw fireworks and objects against the Republic of Ireland. One supporter even staging a pitch-invasion.
The Croatian Football Association has asked UEFA not to punish the team as these are not supporters but hooligans who are giving the nation a bad name. The Association makes a valid argument here. That said, the Croatian Football Association can take initiative and sanction their fans themselves.
However, although throwing flares is violent and dangerous, it is also a separate matter from racism. If UEFA claims that zero tolerance will be implemented, then UEFA needs to live up to their word and do something more than just fining the Croatian Football Association for the disgusting slurs, and the acts of throwing banana peels at the players on the pitch. Perhaps Platini should consider suspending the attendance of Croatian supporters for one match and see where that leads. Should it happen a second time, then they should no longer be permitted to attend Croatia’s matches during this tournament as these individuals do nothing but take the fun out of watching the world’s most beautiful game and make it unpleasant for players who are being targeted. Should Croatia be eliminated early, then it should carry into the next qualification round.
No to racism. Platini, live up to your word!
…and that is the last word.