Racism creeps into football again

Football fans, proud as we are, absolutely despise it when a person or group tarnish the beautiful sport that we have come to love and regard as more than just a sport. There is something deeply upsetting about a good football game being tarnished by the hooliganism and racism that has so persistently dogged the beautiful game for decades. Too often a brilliant Sunday afternoon’s game is marred by a racist remark tossed out amidst the tension the fixture. These few seconds can forever change the nature of a player’s career. Perceptions can be altered so quickly and forever cast.

A man that has been plagued by racism his whole life is Mario Balotelli. We all know his story well. A nationalized Italian adopted by “angels.” Many in Italy do not recognize him as an Italian and thus he has been abused and often chanted at to return to whence he came. Despite what is very much a “bad-boy” appearance he is human as much as you and I and has been brought to tears by racism on a few occasions. He has described racism as being “senseless” before and he has made apparent how strongly adverse he is to racists.

Perhaps the problem with racism in football, aside from the prejudice, is how it has been dealt with. In England the laws state that a racial remark toward a fan, player or referee is punishable by a ban minimum of four matches. While there is no written decree a fine usually accompanies the ban. There is a supreme lack of continuity where ruling is concerned with by The Football Association in England. Bans often make no sense at all and it seems as if the cases were handled nonchalantly. To illustrate this I give you John Terry and the media favourite; Luis Suarez.

In 2011 Chelsea centre back John Terry racially abused Anton Ferdinand a black player form Queen’s Park Rangers. He was banned four games and fined £220,000. The most absurd thing about the saga is that lengthier bans have been dished out for dangerous tackles. The fine may seem massive to us but for a man who earns £150K a week this is small change. The absurdity of the situation is compounded when you realize that despite the evidence Chelsea Football Club lent the Englishman their full support. They took no action of their own but simply backed him in his “not guilty” plea which was dismissed.

Luis Suarez, the man most known for his somewhat irritating habit of biting people, received a comparatively ridiculous ban of 8 games for supposedly racially abusing Patrice Evra. The officials did not witness the event and video footage is inconclusive. The line of defence that Suarez and his representatives took was that Suarez’ use of the word ‘negro’ was not meant in an offensive tone. He spoke of how in Spanish ‘negro’ holds another meaning. Suarez was fined £320,000 in addition to his massive ban. To this day Suarez maintains that he is innocent of any wrongdoing.

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To continue the line of argument that the FA don’t have a logical disciplinary system it begs to be said that recently Jonny Evans and Papiss Cisse were both banned 6 games for spitting at each other. This can be interpreted as since John Terry was banned in 2011 spitting has become a more degrading act than racially abusing a fellow human being. This really emphasizes the present situation of a lack of decisive disciplinary action. While it is commendable the swiftness that the bans for Cisse and Evans were dished out it is also worthy of mention that racism is still being handled with an approach that suggests that the FA don’t like it but don’t really want to do anything to outlandish so as not to draw criticism for being too harsh and then consequentially hand out bans that don’t fit make sense.

Joey Barton tries to pass himself off as a philosophical Twitter genius at times when he is really at heart a hooligan in a pair of cleats who gets paid an odd amount of money to kick others who also paid oddly large sums of money. However when he was served up with a 12 match ban after being sent off against Manchester City. He was charged with violent conduct after a few incidents involving Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany.  The reasoning provided by the regulatory commission was that he wasn’t setting a good example for the millions around the world watch the game.

If this much is true then racism would appear to be tolerable, almost acceptable if only four match bans are deemed appropriate. Similar bans are given to players season after season for dangerous tackles. So once again racism seems to be wallowing underneath seemingly more pressing issues such as spitting, violent conduct and just bad tackling. That’s, odd.

The most recent case of racism was a few weeks ago when Chelsea travelled to France to play Paris Saint Germaine in the Champions League. Chelsea supporters forcibly disallowed a black French commuter from boarding the Paris Metro. After confronting them they chanted at him, “We’re racist and that’s the way we like it.”

Chelsea retrospectively banned three men for life from watching football at Stamford Bridge their home ground for instigating the incident. Yet again there is a lack of continuity with regards to punishment of racial offences and in this case a sense of irony prevails. They banned their supporters for life but when their own captain was involved in racial allegations they backed him and offered him their full support and legal power. I can’t be the only who is stepping on stale bread crumbs.

Obviously this boils down to how it affects them if three men were to stop attending home games they would lose maximum £800 per game which is nothing compared to the revenue they generate from each game when taking into consideration that they have an average attendance of 41,462. However, if they follow through and ban their own player, a world class centre back, they stand to lose far more than £800. It all boils down to the bystander effect and action only being taken when either enough irritating noise is made or a person in a position of influence can see something in it for themselves.

In the case of a professional player racially abusing another a fine such as have been dished out really holds no consequence as they are positively loaded.  These players need to be banned for a hugely consequential period such as a 15 game ban or a 6 month ban. The ban that Luis Suarez received for biting Giorgio Chiellini which encapsulated several months is advisable. This would ensure that such behaviour would soon be cut out or suppressed. If necessary heavier fines could also be implemented.

In summation, the FA need to grow a pair. No more messing about and banning one longer than another despite the same offence. It can be said that that the FA are lacking when it comes to brazenness. Sort it out, lads!

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