Monday, February 13, 2012

Racism in European Football

In the aftermath of the latest Suarez/Evra theatrics, Simon Kuper of the FT reports that British PM David Cameron will hold a summit on discrimination in sport. Kuper also suggests that the UK is not necessarily where the biggest problems lie:
Many other leagues give racism less attention. Italy’s football authorities, for example, have often been slow to acknowledge or condemn racist abuse heaped on the black Italian footballer Mario Balotelli. In 2009, after Juventus fans chanted “There are no black Italians” at Balotelli, Italy’s under-21 manager Pierluigi Casiraghi said: “It’s his personality that’s irritating. It’s not racism.” Italy’s then manager Marcello Lippi said “cases of racism in football don’t exist in Italy”, historian Simon Martin has written in his book Sport Italia. Mr Martin says: “So much here is like Britain in the 1970s and 1980s. Italy needs to look at Britain. There is quite a lot to be learned from the British example.”

In Spanish football too, racism often goes unpunished. Fans are not the only culprits. Luis Aragones remained coach of Spain’s national team after calling Thierry Henry a “black shit” in 2004. Here, too, some in authority seem reluctant to tackle racism. After Real Madrid accused Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets of racism last year (he was later cleared), Barcelona’s vice-president Josep Maria Bartomeu said his own club would not report any racist incidents on the field. He explained, “I don’t know what Se├▒or Busquets said and what they were talking about, but they are things that happen all the time in football.”

Laurent Blanc remained France’s manager despite having participated in a meeting at the French federation to discuss limiting the number of black youngsters entering football academies. Talking about supposedly over-physical and uncreative black footballers, Blanc had said: “The Spaniards told me, ‘We don’t have a problem. We don’t have any black players.’”

In the Netherlands last month, nobody was punished after Feyenoord fans chanted, “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas chamber” at Ajax Amsterdam’s team bus. Indeed, the chant is a hardy perennial of Dutch football. And in eastern Europe, said the international footballers’ trade union Fifpro last week, “Players are still regularly the victim of racist incidents, committed either by spectators or clubs.” In the Czech Republic, 37 per cent of players polled by Fifpro reported having experienced racism or other discrimination. 

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