Thursday, October 27, 2011

Racism in Football.....neither clever, nor funny but hardly avant-garde!

Racism is nothing new in football. This week, though, it is news in football.

Racism in association football is the abuse of players, officials and fans because of their skin colour, nationality, religion or ethnicity. Some may be targeted (also) because of their association with an opposing team. However, there have been instances of individuals being targeted by their own fans.

Here in England, Chelsea's John Terry is battling accusations of racism this week after his team's weekend loss to Queens Park Rangers.

As of now, Terry is still the captain of the England international squad, but the issue is quite serious, with both the Football Association and police launching investigations.

In the latest contentious episode of Terry’s career, video posted on the Internet appeared to show Terry (right) directing a racial slur at Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand during last Sunday’s game. The issue could again throw into question Terry’s suitability as England captain.

Terry has been in trouble on and off the field throughout his career. He regained the armband only this year after being stripped of it by England manager Fabio Capello in February 2010. He allegedly had an affair with the former girlfriend of Chelsea and England team-mate Wayne Bridge.

Rio Ferdinand, the older brother of Anton and Terry’s longtime defense partner for England, took over as captain only to relinquish the position 13 months later.

Terry was also fined by the club after he and three teammates drunkenly abused American guests at a hotel the day after the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001.

Less than two weeks ago, Liverpool's Luis Suarez was accused of racist abuse against an opponent, Manchester United's Patrice Evra.
With the English FA expected to seek Manchester United's permission to speak with Evra, as it launches its investigation into the Frenchman's allegations, one post-match witness from the Anfield players' tunnel said the defender had remained "very angry" 20 minutes after the game, when he and Alex Ferguson visited the match officials' office to report that Suarez had called the player a "n****r" at least 10 times during the 1-1 draw.

It might be weeks or months before we know exactly what happened. Until then, it will be hard to judge these incidents in their historical context.

Racism in football is rife right across all of Europe, in many forms, and has been so going on decades. It is just that it seems to be more prevalent in Eastern Europe at present, and with next years European Championships scheduled to be jointly held in Poland and the Ukraine, these are worrying times. All the major footballing nations across Europe have been subject to periods of racist (and sometimes fascist) behaviour over the years, including the likes of France, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy.

The worldwide governing bodies of the game, along with the players need to set an example to the supporters, because the fans do not need much incentive to light the blue touch paper, and use racist behaviour as a means of provoking a sharp reaction on and off the field.

However you only need to look at recent incidents this year to show that this type of abuse is gathering momentum, despite several high profile campaigns over recent years to rid the game of this virus!

If society cannot behave itself away from the game, then the job of controlling hundreds of thousands of football fans every week is a futile one.

Here are several high-profile examples of controversial racist incidents not directly fan related:

The Player:
Lazio striker Paolo Di Canio (right), found himself in trouble with the Italian football authorities in December 2005, after giving an alleged fascist salute in their Serie A match away to Livorno.
According to Italian news agency ANSA, Di Canio made the gesture to the visiting Lazio supporters while he was being substituted.
Games between Livorno and Lazio are always tense because of the political leaning of the clubs' supporters. Livorno have always had a strong left-wing following, while Lazio supporters have links to the far right.
ANSA said Livorno fans waved communist flags with the hammer and sickle emblem, while Celtic crosses (a popular symbol for the neo nazis especially as the swastika is banned) were spotted in the Lazio enclosure.

It is not the first time Di Canio's politics have landed him in hot water. In March 2005 he was fined 10,000 euros for giving a fascist-style salute at the end of the Rome derby two months earlier.
Di Canio denied any political significance but the Italian football league's disciplinary commission ruled his gesture had "unequivocally recalled a precise political ideology which could have provoked a violent reaction from fans".

The Player:
Also in 2005 Serbian striker Nenad Jestrovic became the first player to be dismissed in a Champion's League match for alleged racist comments while his side, Anderlecht of Belgium, played against Liverpool earlier in the month. UEFA banned him for three matches.

Former Manager, TV Analyst and Newspaper Columnist:
On the 21st April 2004, Ron Atkinson resigned from ITV after he was caught making a racist remark live on air about the black Chelsea player Marcel Desailly: believing the microphone to be switched off, he said, ".....he [Desailly] is what is known in some schools as a fucking lazy thick n****r". Although transmission in the UK had finished, the microphone gaffe meant that his comment was broadcast to various countries in the Middle East. He also left his job as a columnist for The Guardian "by mutual agreement" as a result of the comment.

In Dec 2010 the Pizza Hut restaurant chain was accused of racism after asking a group of black professional footballers to pay in advance for their meals.
The demand was made as a table of white youngsters seated nearby were allowed to settle up after eating.
Five AFC Bournemouth players were stunned when a duty manager told them to pay up front because of "the way you lot look."
When they refused, staff claimed they were being "disruptive" and called the police.
Officers arrived at the restaurant but took no action after the players, including first-team regulars Anton Robinson, Liam Feeney and Marvin Bartley agreed to leave.

Pizza Hut were forced to apologise to the League One stars and admitted they had been treated "very shabbily" but insisted there was no racism.
However, midfielder Mr Robinson, 24, said later: "The only thing that was different was the colour of our skins."

So with players, television presenters and society unable to control their vile tongues, it is no surprise that the fans of the game continue to use racism to further stoke up the fires that already smoulder!

Here are some incidents of racist behaviour by fans that have all taken place in 2011 alone, right across Europe.

The Fans:
15th October 2011: Corsican nationalists have accused the French Football League (LFP) of racism as the fall-out from a brawl that marred the end the second division match between Bastia and Lens continues. Three players – Gilles Cioni of Bastia and Lens duo Gabriel Cichero and Samba Sow of Lens, were sent-off towards the end of the 2-2 draw at the Stade Armand-Cesari.
As the players made their way off the pitch, fighting continued in the tunnel, and Cichero – a Venezuelan international defender – is alleged to have kicked Bastia director Alain Seghi in the face, breaking his nose, cheekbone and eye-socket.

September 2011: England's Ashley Young was targeted by Bulgarian fans (right) not because he is a great player - one who has illuminated the early stages of the English Premier League season with Manchester United - but because he is black.
However, the actions of a minority in the international match in Sofia in September showed that, for some countries, attitudes that seem out-of-step in today's multicultural world are still prevalent. Bulgaria's German coach Lothar Matthaus, who has since been sacked, was so embarrassed by the fans' behavior that he publicly apologized after the match.

April 2011: Real Madrid striker Emmanuel Adebayor has said nothing can be done to stop racism in football after he was targeted by Tottenham fans during his side’s Champions League win over Spurs. The on-loan Manchester City man scored twice in Madrid's 4-0 win at the Bernabeu but was singled out by the travelling fans following his three-and-a-half-year spell with Tottenham Hotspur’s rivals Arsenal.
The Tottenham fans are reported to have sung a derogatory chant about Adebayor's parents.

March 2011: A German teenager admitted throwing a banana onto the field in the direction of Brazil soccer star Neymar during a friendly with Scotland in March. First it was believed that the notorious Tartan Army, Scotland’s raucous rooting section, had flung the fruit, which caused all manner of controversy. When the teenager came forward, the Scottish Football Association demanded an apology, saying; "Scotland supporters are known for impeccable behaviour." Everyone had a good laugh over that quote.

January 2011: Kenny Dalglish's job as Liverpool's new short-term manager this week will include investigating a racism row involving the club's academy players. It follows an allegation that Crystal Palace's players were subjected to racial abuse during their FA Youth Cup fourth‑round tie at Anfield. One player said he was "disgusted" by what he had heard.
The Football Association contacted Palace for a full account of what happened and to ascertain whether they intend to make an official complaint.

The FA may also ask to speak to Dan Pringle, one of the players involved in the 3-1 defeat for Palace. Pringle expressed his dismay on his Twitter account after the match, saying: "Disappointed with result but really disgusted with the racism from Liverpool throughout the game. Disgraceful."

When he was contacted by several Palace supporters he later clarified that he was talking about Liverpool's players rather than the crowd.

Liverpool reacted with surprise, not least as they had several black players in their team. A club spokesman said: "We didn't receive any complaints either during or after the game and nothing was mentioned by the referee."

There have been many high-profile incidents of racist behavior towards players in recent seasons. Here are some examples of racist behaviour by fans going back to 1988.

August 2010: The Lokomotiv Moscow soccer team sold Peter Odemwingie, who is half-Russian and is a Nigeria international, to West Brom in the transfer window in August, with some Lokomotiv fans displaying an offensive banner on his exit. Their fans celebrated during the next game with a banner (below) showing a banana and the message: "Thanks West Brom."

"It's a minority group but it's really sad - I have a good relationship with the club but this is a big disgrace," Odemwingie told BBC Sport.
The 29-year-old explained that black players are regularly subjected to insults in the Russian league but said the authorities do not act.
"Some fans treated me well at the club - only a group of supporters have shown how narrow minded they are to the world," Odemwingie said.

From BBC Sport: The Russian Football Union’s (RFU) disciplinary body held a board meeting on 25th August 2010, but opted not to fine Lokomotiv and Sorokin, who is also the Russian Football Union’s director general, who insisted that the banana banner was not "racist."

Racism seems particularly endemic in Russian soccer, "The supporters' attitude to black players in Russia is appalling, it's totally abysmal," Keir Radnedge of World Soccer magazine told CNN.
"Not only is there racism towards black players in Russia, but there is an inter-racial side to things, where players or fans from countries that formed part of the former Soviet Union get targeted as well."
Zenit St Petersburg - Russia's most fascist and rightwing club, virulently racist, they won't even let non-whites on the team and have admitted this publicly.

February 2010: A racist football fan was banned from matches for three years yesterday after abusing striker Darren Bent's mother. John Davison, 26, called Shirley Bent a "n****r" as he walked past her on the way to watch her son play for Sunderland at Wigan Athletic.
John Davison, 26, called Shirley Bent a "n****r" as he walked past her on the way to watch her son play for Sunderland at Wigan Athletic. He was also fined £170 and ordered to pay Mrs Bent £50 compensation.

African star Samuel Eto'o (right) has been targeted on several occasions.
October 2010: While playing for Italian side Inter Milan, play was halted for three minutes after Eto'o was abused by supporters of Sicily-based Cagliari.

February 2006: While playing for Barcelona, the Cameroon striker was so incensed by chants from Real Zaragoza fans that he walked off the pitch.

April 2009: Internazionale's Mario Balotelli, an Italian footballer of Ghanaian descent, was subjected to racial abuse from Juventus fans. They were handed a one game home fan ban as a result

March 2008: Black players of French side Marseille - including André Ayew, Ronald Zubar and Charles Kaboré - were targeted by the fascist fans of Russian side Zenit St Petersburg.

24th March 2007: In a match between France and Lithuania, a racist banner was unfurled by Lithuanian supporters. Directed against France's black players, it represented a map of Africa, painted with the French flag colors (blue, white and red), with a slogan of "Welcome to Europe"

13th January 2007: The FA charged Newcastle player Emre Belözoğlu with "using racially-aggravated abusive and/or insulting words", referring to an incident during the 3-0 defeat by Everton at Goodison Park on 30th December 2006. Emre was, on the 16th February 2007, accused of more racist behaviour, this time against Bolton's El Hadji Diouf. However, on 1st March 2007, it was revealed that Diouf would not be pursuing his claim. It was also later revealed that Watford player Al Bangura had released a statement declaring that he was the victim of racist abuse from Emre. On the 19th March he was cleared of the charges relating to the Everton game.

No smoke without fire in my opinion!

March 2006: Two Eastern German soccer teams in the fourth division, FC Sachsen Leipzig and Hallesche FC, had just drawn 2-2 on 25th March in Halle, and the fans weren't happy.

Leipzig's Nigerian midfielder Adebowale Ogungbure was walking off the pitch when hooligans ran up to him, spat at him and called him "Dirty n****r," "Shit n****r" and "Ape." He ignored it and walked on. Then, when he passed the main stand and heard fans making whooping monkey noises at him, he decided he'd had enough. He put two fingers above his mouth to symbolise a Hitler moustache and stuck out his right arm in a Nazi salute to the crowd.
Given their behavior, one might think they would have appreciated the gesture and even returned it. But a Hallesche FC supporter attacked him from behind with a corner flag and another grabbed him in a stranglehold. Ogungbure pushed them away as a teammate intervened and dragged him towards the tunnel, to the safety of the changing rooms.

January 2006: After racist chants one weekend in stadiums in Italy and Spain had brought African players to tears, the European Union and soccer's governing body planned to get tougher on soccer's major problem.

On soccer pitches across Belgium the following weekend, players wore a black and white stripe on their faces. In Italy, an anti-racism banner was unveiled before the opening whistle of every top Italian league and Italian Cup match.

The measures, organized by the Belgian and Italian leagues, followed a shameful weekend of racism in European soccer. The week before Messina's Ivory Coast defender Marc Zoro threatened to walk off the field after fans of his team's opponents, Inter Milan, repeatedly hurled racial epithets at him.

Two Espanyol fans were suspended for abusing Barcelona's Cameroon goalkeeper Carlos Kameni. Kameni has been a regular victim of racial abuse from a section of the club's radical fans as well as opposing supporters at other grounds in Spain. Meanwhile the Brazilian midfielder Fredson, were subjected to racist chants in Madrid by fans of opponents Atletico Madrid.

November 2004: An large explosion of racial abuse in European soccer was seen and the return of a problem once thought of as a relic of the game. But has it really ever been away?
The recent increase in reported offences has once again turned the spotlight on the uglier side of the beautiful game and raised the question: Are these latest sickening outbursts just copycat incidents or is European soccer still rife with racists and xenophobes?

Racist taunting aimed at Partizan Belgrade's black players overshadowed the Serbian side's 2-2 draw against Lazio in Rome to plunge the game in Europe into another race shame.
Lazio’s hardcore Ultras (right), notorious for their xenophobic and racist views and their support for the former right wing regime in Yugoslavia, targeted Cameroon striker Pierre Boya in particular, during the explosive UEFA Cup Group E clash.

Two days later following the incident in Rome. Real Madrid's Champions League match against Bayer Leverkusen was marred by racist chanting by Spanish fans with Bayer's Brazilian defenders Roque Junior and Juan the target of abuse from Real's Ultra Sur hooligan element during the 1-1 draw. The Spanish giants became the subject of an investigation by UEFA as a result.

Also in November 2004: The specter of racism then reared its ugly head in the English Premiership when Birmingham City striker Dwight Yorke was abused by a Blackburn Rovers supporter, as he warmed up on the sidelines with his fellow substitutes during the match.

January 1988: Mark Walters debut for Rangers FC. Walters became the first black player in Ranger's history, making his debut on 2nd January 1988, in the Old Firm derby match with Celtic at Parkhead, Scotland.
Celtic fans marked the occasion by throwing bananas and making monkey noises, with some even wearing tuxedos — or "monkey suits" — to the match. During the same game, in defence of Walters, Rangers’ fans, responded with an 'unconscious' racist song, singing "I’d rather be a darkie than a Tim" (Tim being a slang term to describe a person of Scots-Irish catholic decent). The match commentator seemed oblivious to the racial implications: He commented - "Well the game was slightly held up while some assortment of fruit was removed from the pitch. You can see it there, just in front of The Jungle."
The Scottish Football Association chose to remain silent on the incident.

It was in the mid-1980s that German football club St. Pauli's transition from a traditional club into a "Kult" club began. It was also during the 1980's when the club first became associated with the Skull and Crossbones symbol.

The deal is St. Pauli is no ordinary team. This is an anti-racist, anti-fascist, pretty much anarchist soccer team which represents a shall we say bohemian area of Hamburg home to prostitutes, squatters and activists of the left wing and anarchist persuation. Opposition to fascism, sexism and homophobia has actually been included in the club constitution.

More than 20,000 fans regularly pack the home stadium, and the club has the largest proportion of female fans in German football.

The ugly cloud of racism appears to hang like a shadow over soccer, particularly in Eastern Europe, but with the Euro 2012 finals in Poland and Ukraine on the horizon, a campaign to ensure that such behavior is stamped out in stadiums is gathering pace.
Rafal Pankowski heads Poland-based organization 'Never Again,' which works closely with European football's governing body UEFA and Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE). Their collective aim is to challenge racism in Eastern European soccer, with particular emphasis on next year's co-hosted tournament.

"Unfortunately it seems racism is deeply rooted in the culture of soccer, especially in Eastern Europe," Pankowski told CNN. "Of course it's a broader problem, affecting countries such as Spain and Italy, but it is a real issue in Eastern Europe.
"We appreciate the steps and initiatives that UEFA are taking, but we are still a very long way from eradicating the problem and it's just not something that can be eliminated overnight."

Earlier this year, 'Never Again' published a report called "Hateful" which documented the number of racist incidents in Poland and Ukraine.
It detailed 195 individual incidents of racist and discriminatory behavior in an 18-month period from September 2009 to March 2011, a figure that underlines the amount of work that still needs to be done.

A slap on the wrists, puny fines and meaningless five-minute delays to matches will not deter the racists, but what will?

The relationship between 'race' and football takes a number of forms. It has long been the case that a number of fans have used Saturday afternoons at football matches to air their racial prejudices but it is now recognised that this minority of racist fans is only part of the problem. What is also important is how members of minority groups can become involved in football as players, coaches or spectators, the interest they take in football and whether in certain areas they feel excluded.

The UK was the first country to make a concerted effort to rid the game of racism, at least in its most obvious forms, with the founding of the ‘Let’s Kick Racism out of Football’ campaign in 1993, followed two years later by the launch of ‘Show Racism the Red Card’ in the north-east of England, and the Football Unites, Racism Divides project in Sheffield. FURD is now centrally involved in international campaigns against racism in football, through the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) network.

Racism is not a problem of football's making. It is society's problem. Yet it is an issue the game cannot afford to sideline. It presents it with responsibilities - and new opportunities.
The game’s ruling bodies - and clubs and players as its ambassadors - have a responsibility to protect and promote its image as the game that unites the world. They must act wherever necessary to ensure people can watch and play free from prejudice and abuse.
They also have an opportunity to make a positive contribution to creating a better society.

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