Racism killing the beautiful game?

Author: Peter Sarbah
racism in football
Sulley Muntari gets card for complaining about racism

Football is one game that is used to bring people together and all over the world, the game has become an accepted means of uniting people.

At every football event supporters often bury their differences and in unison they rally behind their team. The Mundial has also become one avenue where the game presents people of diverse backgrounds the opportunity to bond and learn from each other

Often, the diverse cultures and camaraderie that is displayed by fans who travel from across the globe to enjoy the game in peaceful atmosphere attest to the unifying power of football.  

That notwithstanding, the existence of the game appears to be threatened by the ugly act of racism that is creeping into football with the white race remaining the guilty party due to their sense of superiority against the blacks.

Obviously, very little is known about the genesis of this act although Andrew Watson was the first known black footballer to have graced the European league when he featured at the top level in Britain in the 1880s but had to lose his place in the Scottish national team due to his choice of club.

Walter Tull was one of the early known racial victims and as a 20-year-old printer apprentice, he had been transferred for a large fee to Northampton Town from Tottenham Hotspur in 1908. However, it was reported that during their game against Bristol City the opposing fans racially abused him.

Since then, the act has gained notoriety and often the egos of some fans or players push them into thinking they are much superior to the other race resulting in the casting of slurs or insinuations to denigrate others on the pitch or in the stands.

In Europe, the black minority had been at the receiving end of this dastardly act with several black players haven to abandon football matches midway or reacted in other ways that has brought the name of the game in disrepute.

Ghana’s Sulley Muntari, Mario Balotelli, Jerome Boateng, Kevin-Prince and recently Mesut Ozil are but a few footballers who have all been victims to this crude act of racism but the world football governing body appears to be losing the fight against racism.

In an attempt to stem out racism, FIFA constantly remind players and fans about the need to eliminate discrimination from the game through the display of ‘Say no to Racism’ banners mostly during international games as well as proffer stiffer punishment to offenders.

Unfortunately, FIFA does not seem to be winning that war because in spite of the constant reminders and penalties meted out to offenders, there continue to be pockets of the act reported all over the world during games.

For instance ahead of the World Cup Paul Pogba and Ousmane Dembele were reported to have suffered racial abuse in Russia when fans chanted anytime they went near the corner flag.

Muntari once incurred the wrath of a referee after he suffered racial abuse while playing for Pescara. Kevin-Prince Boateng was forced to walk off the pitch after he suffered similar abuse while playing for AC Milan and Balotelli has threatened to walk off the pitch anytime he is subjected to this act.

The stain racism has left on the game can be cleaned if offender are made to pay the price for their indiscretion. For now it appears the measures put in place by FIFA is not punitive enough to deter supporters or offenders from continuing that act and this explains why the war on the fight would take much longer time to succeed.

Indeed if FIFA is committed to winning this war then there must be rethinking in the strategy of dealing with offenders. As it stands now, it appears FIFA is treating the guilty with kid’s gloves making it difficult to prevent anyone from engaging in it.

By merely barring offenders from the game is not what would prevent people from engaging in racial act. It is about time FIFA declared racism a serious crime punishable by prison terms and fines. This is the only way we can fight the problem otherwise any other thing would be exercise in futility.