RACISM is not football’s problem to resolve, but once again stakeholders to the beautiful game are asking themselves, ‘how do you solve a problem like xenophobia?’.
From the early 1900’s, football was becoming established, initially alone amongst its own social circle, the sport has grown into the number one sport in the world, across all classes, cultures, nations and religions. It is rightly loved by billions of people, yet is only 100 years old as an organised establishment.
On the flip side, The existence of ‘isms’ is the curse of humanity. There is no period of history in which there was not conflict to report of. We as a people are determined to achieve and succeed and declare our value over the importance of others. Discrimination and xenophobia has existed for millennia.
The latest event to get the pot stirring has occurred in Ukraine, specifically in Donetsk. In a high profile match between hosts Shakthar and Dynamo Kiev, offensive chants had been heard from the away “fans”, particularly targetting the home forward Taison.
It overwhelmed Taison whose reaction was to gesture offensively back at the stands and then violently kick the ball towards the fans too. The accompanying footage shows Taison didn’t put anyone’s safety in doubt, but nonetheless it crossed the line on acceptable behaviour.
At this stage on 77 mins, the referee called the game to a halt and removed the players from the field. Taison was in tears, and was being consoled by two opposition players in the face of discrimination. It’s exactly the reaction that should be seen in the face of racists.
However the game took an unexpected turn as the players re-took to the field the referee issued Taison with a straight red card. The reason this was unexpected is not because it was not justified but that it occurred not at the time of the event, but after all of the waiting around as play was about to re-start.
The following statement should not be controversial. Taison deserved a red card. Professional footballers, nee all footballers, cannot show aggression to or incite aggression from the fans. The fact that this is in response to racism from the crowds is completely irrelevant, as we know that two wrongs do not make a right.
It is appalling that racism does exist, but taking matters into your own hands is a punishable offence. So what’s the drama?
“Sanctioning a victim of racial abuse is beyond comprehension and it plays into the hands of those who promote this kind of disgraceful behaviour” Fifpro
The organisation representing footballers on a global scale, the worlds players’ union, has voiced its disgrace at handing out a red card and subsequent one match ban. No-one here is arguing that racism is acceptable, indeed its a disease of the world beyond football. However, Fifpro are clearly neglecting their responsibility to footballing stakeholders, and the world beyond football too. Defending the right to swear back and target the crowd physically is not appropriate from any organisation, particularly one that represents global role models. There is a bigger picture at play here, and condoning this behaviour is how hate becomes pandemic.
What is more concerning is how these incidents are represented on the global stage because whilst discrimination does need to be stamped out, there were positive behaviours that should have been celebrated, such as the Dynamo Kiev players showing solidarity with Taison when leaving the field. There’s also the appreciation that this is a global issue that needs addressing, not fixating on the individual incidents, as presented by Marcos Antonio of Shakthar Donetsk,
“The game needs real fans instead of the people who come to the stadium and behave like that, not respecting the athletes.
“We need to work on this because such episodes upset us all.”
All of the headlines are about Taison and his red card but had he not been sent off this incident was not likely to even reach the press.
Racism is undoubtedly a scourge on the beautiful game, but it should not be forgotten that racism is a scourge across all humanity. Football, as the largest connection across the majority of humanity, is not itself responsible for bridging this gap, but those calling for more action from organisations such as FIFA, UEFA and the FA are completely just too. We just need to keep a sense of realism and cannot justify a reaction of any means necessary.
Football has the ability, the potential, and the history to show the world how to be a better place. The most famous football game of all is arguably the Christmas Day match between Allied Forces and the German Army on no man’s land. At the height on international war football brought peace.
Less than two months ago, South Korea crossed their northern border for a fixture in Pyongyang, North Korea for the first time in almost 30 years. Football is special. We need to see more and embrace the power of bringing people together, and on that note I thank you #15 Tsyhankov and #10 Shaparenko (I have concerns about the squad numbers and corresponding names as it doesn’t appear to be Shaparenko in the image but that’s an investigation for a different day!)