Racism in soccer is nothing new.
Earlier this week during a match between Cagliari and Pescara in Serie A, fans bombarded Pescara’s Sully Muntari with racist comments, leading the player to complain to the referee. But instead of support, Muntari, who was born in Ghana, received a yellow card for his passionate, common sense pleas for help. Muntari then left the pitch in protest, leaving his team to finish the game a man down.
The penalty resulted in an automatic suspension for Sully in the team’s next game, while Cagliari went unscathed after the dust settled.
But we all knew that after some reflection, Serie A would rescind the yellow card and suspension, reprimand Cagliari and let Sully play. It was obvious who was at fault and to take a stand for what’s right, the powers at be would make the right call.
So we’ll move on to the next game and….wait. What’s that? No. Don’t even tell me….Serie A upheld the suspension? Stop playing!
I wish this were fiction, but unfortunately this is the real world and another appearance of the insensitivity, ignorance, racism and corruption which plagues and destroys the sport of soccer for so many.
While the disciplinary committee of Serie A condemned the action of the fans, they stated that their rules prevented any action against the club because less than one percent of fans were involved. By reporting that it was “approximately 10” fans out of an estimated 2,000 seated in that section, the league concluded that it could not take action and had to uphold Sully’s suspension.
But in all reality, they did take an action, albeit a weak one. They employed a bogus mathematical estimate to arrive at a ridiculous conclusion, which in turn directly supported racism while placing another nail in the coffin of common sense and decency, both of which seem to be dying a slow death in these times, especially here in the U.S.
It’s also another weapon for detractors of the sport, which is an absolute shame because it mars a game blessed with great skill and excitement, one which can unite countries and nations.
Even FIFPro, an organization dedicated to protecting the rights of soccer players, had to get involved, issuing a statement and plea for Serie A to listen to Sully and reconsider their inaction.
FIFPro (@FIFPro) May 2, 2017
There’s no excuse for Serie A’s position. This was the moment to administer some “act right” to teams, players and fans who think ignorance comes with the uniform or their ticket. We’ve seen college basketball teams assessed technical fouls because of the antics or their rowdy fans. We’ve seen Giants’ fans banned for life because they were involved in a snowball fight during a game. Most recently we learned that a Boston Red Sox fan who was too comfortable with tossing around racial epithets was banned for life.
Yet instead of taking a stand against racism by punishing the team and their fans, the league went ostrich and put their heads in the sand at a moment where some brave common sense could have triumphed over ignorance.
I said it earlier in the week, that soccer needs its own version of Colin Kaepernick. Someone who can put the issues of the sport on his shoulders and employ non-violent protest to generate awareness for a human cause. Sully took the first correct step by voicing his concern to the appropriate person, and took the second proper step when he chose not to play in remainder of the game.
And while he’ll have to sit out the next game as of now, hopefully more will read his story and pressure the various soccer leagues across the globe to take a stand before, during and after games in which racism decides to appear on the pitch and in the stands.
Because right now, soccer is being recognized as the beautiful, but racist, game.