Anyone who has watched a European football game in recent weeks has most likely noticed the giant “Say No To Racism” banners lining the sides of the pitch. The campaign marks the latest attempt from the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) to once and for all rid the game of racism. UEFA has partnered with the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) to develop a plan to educate those of the prevalence of racism in football and to prevent future problems.
Instances of racism are unfortunately all too common in the world of football. Players are taunted by fans and opposing players due to their race, religion, skin color, or ethnicity. There are many documented cases of fans verbally abusing opposing players, and oftentimes, they even insult players on their own team.
One recent example of racism in football was during a 2011 Champions League match between Real Madrid and Barcelona. After the match, video was released that showed a player from Barcelona calling a Brazilian player “mono” – the Spanish word for monkey. Fans were furious and called for a suspension, although UEFA eventually cleared the Barcelona player of the accusations.
Another recent incident involved fans chanting racist slurs at an opposing player during a friendly between AC Milan and Pro Patria. Opposing fans were repeatedly chanting the word “monkey” to Kevin Prince Boateng of AC Milan. After players repeatedly asked the fans to stop the racist chants, the players and referees decided to stop play and walked off the field without finishing the match. Some fans in attendance actually cheered as they walked off of the field in a show of support for their stand against racism.
However, if one were handing out a “Most Racist Club in the World Award”, it would undoubtedly be given to the Russian club Zenit St. Petersburg. In December of last year, fans published a manifesto listing their demands for the club. Included in the list of demands was the exclusion of all non-white and homosexual players from the football club. The club is the only football club in Russia to have never signed a minority player and does not seem likely to do so in the near future, as fans have professed their distaste for all minorities.
Many solutions have been proposed to end racism in football entirely. One suggestion is to penalize the team points if the home fans are disruptive and engage in racist chanting. However, many do not believe this would solve the problem, as it could lead to opposing fans instigating racist chants in hopes of costing the other team points.
For now, the best solution to the problem of racism in football is education and punishment for those who have been found guilty of engaging in racist acts. If a referee hears a player using a racist slur, they should immediately be sent off the pitch and also fined and suspended. If there is no punishment for the crime, players will continue to do so at will. Also, fans in the crowd seen abusing the players should be thrown out of the stadium and never permitted to return.
UEFA is doing a magnificent job at educating the youth and doing its best to put an end to racism in football. They have made great strides lately, as racism was not even acknowledged as a problem in football just as little as 10 years ago. They are working to instill in young football players the belief that racism has no part in the game and also punish those who use racist language during a match. Although their efforts are admirable, there is still much work to be done racism is kicked from the game entirely.