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FIFA Charges Russia With Fan Racism, Proving Soccer Can’t Kick Hate

It’s soccer to some and ftbol to others, yet no matter how it’s defined, it’s a sport with some of the most rabid, passionate fans in the world.

But as the biggest global sport, soccer can’t seem to successfully unite cultures, ethnicities or skin colors as racism continues to erupt through the connectivity that sports usually promotes.

Those with darker skin have been subjected to racist taunts and actions across the globe by soccer fans who, despite the penalties their teams can possibly suffer for their ignorance, demonstrate their racist nature proudly. Over the last few years we’ve seen race move to the forefront of sports through Colin Kaepernick‘s kneeling over social injustice and his resulting blackballing by the league and Trump’s ridiculous attacks on the sports world through his false narratives that taking a knee is disrespecting veterans and the flag. But racism in sports is not restricted to the United States as the world’s game has proven that it continues to be plagued by blatantly disgusting examples of racism.

In Paris we witnessed four white male Chelsea soccer fans push a Black passenger off of the train while chanting “Were racist, were racist, and thats the way we like it. 

The country of Spain, unfortunately, seems to be well known for its racist fans, the most notable instance occurring in 2014 involving Barcelona’s Dani Alves. During the game, Alves had a banana thrown at him. But he flipped the script on his agitators by picking it up, eating it and jumping right back into the match. He spoke on the issue after that game, discussing how it’s happened many times during his decade of playing in the country, which includes the obligatory monkey chants by the ignorant fans.

I know that people are fighting against this but these kinds of things keep happening, he told Reuters. I have been in Spain for 10 years and it has been happening since the first day. Drastic measures should be taken, for example, punishing the club more severely not just with a 1,000 or 2,000 fine [about $1,300 to $1,700.] You have to go a bit further. Sometimes you have to make an example. In England it doesnt happen and when it does the punishments are exemplary.

Last year in May in a match between Cagliari and Pescara in Serie A, fans bombarded Pescara’s Sully Muntari with racist comments, and when he complained he was hit with a yellow card. So he walked off the field in protest and was suspended for a game by Serie A, who, despite condemning the actions of the fans, refused to reverse the suspension. 

A few months earlier in February of that year in Serbia we experienced the true pain inflicted by racism as Brazilian Everton Luiza, a midfielder for Partizan Belgrade, was brought to tears after being subjected to a continuous, 90 minute barrage of racist taunts from the fans of Rad Belgrade.

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                                                     (Photo Credit: Mirror)

“Ive been suffering racist abuse during the entire 90 minutes and also was upset by the home players, who supported that,” said Luiza. “They were all attacking me. I want to forget this as soon as possible. I love Serbia and the people here, that is why I cried. But please say no to racism.”

Say no to racism. 

It’s a plea which has been repeated non-stop in soccer, yet one which has fallen on many deaf ears across the globe. Some players, such as Neymar, have confronted it in their own individual ways while some leagues, such as MLS, and governing bodies like FIFA, are finally taking steps to address and deter the problem through fines levied against the teams of those “special” fans. 

On Tuesday, the latter announced that it was moving ahead with disciplinary proceedings against the Russian Football Union (RFU) in response to acts of fan racism during a match between Russian and France last month in St. Petersburg, which is preparing to host seven matches during this summer’s upcoming World Cup.

In that “friendly” match, Black French players were targets of monkey chants by the Russian fans and the governing body isn’t having it.

A request has been made to the Interior Ministry to identify several persons who were involved in these incidents, said RFU anti-discrimination officer Alexei Smertin. If these peoples guilt is proven, then theres a high likelihood they wont be allowed to attend World Cup and Russian league games.

This latest demonstration of racism in St. Petersburg brings the count to three this year alone, but this isn’t the first time that Russian has been negatively impacted by racism in soccer. At the last two European Championships, the country was found guilty of fan racism and the RFU had to pay fines in both cases. And these are not isolated incidents, as many have been wary of Russia’s troubling rise in racism and neo-Nazi activity, warning the world about these issues before the country was selected to host this year’s World Cup back in 2010.

“There is hardly any acknowledgement of racism either inside or outside the grounds by the government and football authorities in Russia, and there is a pattern of denial when the problem is raised.” said Rafal Pankowski, who records racist activity at Russian football matches with the help Uefa. “Nazi slogans are common in many Russian stadiums. Matches are often interrupted with racist chants aimed at black players,” said Pankowski.

“I have been in Moscow this week and seen it for myself. There is racist graffiti in the streets. Major bookshops openly sell racist literature. The hate-crime rate is high. Black people are often beaten up by skinhead gangs.”

And who can forget last year’s parade in Sochi to celebrate the Confederate Cup where party goers wore blackface and marched in Cameroon attire.

It’s disheartening to see such an amazing sport enable these blatant displays of racist venom by not addressing it sooner, not adopting stricter rules and not imposing more severe punishments against these fans who continue to ruin the world’s game.

That such a great sport continues to be plagued and marred by the ignorant actions of a few, especially in Russia, which will be the center of the world for roughly two months starting in June, is very telling. But as we all know, racism is a global sport which knows no bounds, borders or limits, and unfortunately for those who really love the Beautiful Game, its severely infected the pitch.

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