Teams that come with darker skinned players and supporters to the 2018 World Cup in Russia stand to have plenty of prejudice -even hate crime- to contend with, if the trend picked up in the run up to the June 17 kick-off is anything to by.
This view was issued by a Johannesburg based online operation dedicated to serve public good. The organisation runs an initiative that monitors racism in and around FIFA activity in the run up to the 2018 World Cup in Russia and beyond. The initiative sets out to hold FIFA accountable to its promise of casting out racism from the game of football.
On the firing line are five African teams; Nigeria, Egypt, Senegal, Morocco, and Tunisia. Their visit to Russia could be spoiled by racism. This also extends to the Asian teams; Iran, South Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia and a number of European teams like France, England and the South Americans, which come with racially diversified teams.
The Russian football fraternity has not covered itself with glory in recent times, in terms of handling racism in the field, even with knowledge that the world’s eyes are on it in the run up to the 2018 World Cup tournament. And FIFA stands accused of complicity.
This was showcased most recently around a match between Russia and France held in St. Petersburg. Russian fans were seen hurling racial insults, monkey chants, towards black French players. This confirmed earlier warnings that Russia’s football fraternity is a hotbed of discriminatory practices backed by rich ne0-Nazi and Ultranationalist sub-cultures.
FIFA charged Russia with fan racism for the behaviour displayed during the French clash. The racist acts caused stern protest from the French minister of sport, Laura Flessel, who is herself black. She said something must be done at the international level to stop this sort of incident from happening.
“Racism has no place on the football pitch. We have to take action together on a European and international level to bring an end to this inadmissible behaviour”.
FIFA eventually imposed a fine of £22,000 on the Russian Football Union.
Critics condemned the handling of the case. Chairperson of the London based anti-racism campaign group Kick It Out, Lord Herman Ouseley, described the fine as “pitiful”.
“The organisation reiterates its belief that the lack of effective action from FIFA against the issue of racism in Russian football will likely result in the further abuse of black players in matches involving the country.
“Ultimately, with this outcome, Kick It Out has little confidence that FIFA can effectively deal with potential incidents of racism during this summer’s World Cup and protect those black players, staff and supporters who will be in attendance.”
ProBonoMatters said the fine was infuriating. “It confirms our position that FIFA does not have the will and determination to fight racism. It’s clear that something else needs to happen to force FIFA into action.”
This article was first published in ProBonoMatters, an online title dedicated to serve public good. ProBonoMatters recently launched an initiative to monitor and hold FIFA accountable to its promise of casting out racism form the game of football.