Racism: Soccer's new fashion? | Soccer | CBC Sports

Euro CupRacism: Soccer's new fashion?

Posted: Monday, February 20, 2012 | 10:15 AM

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Liverpool’s Luis Suarez, right, was banned for eight games after being found guilty of racial abuse against Manchester United defender Patrice Evra (3) during a Premier League match last October. (Shaun Botterill/Getty Images) Liverpool’s Luis Suarez, right, was banned for eight games after being found guilty of racial abuse against Manchester United defender Patrice Evra (3) during a Premier League match last October. (Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

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It is abhorrent. It is degrading and demoralizing. Racial abuse has no place in modern society or any other society for that matter. It is not cool, clever or humorous. It is simply unacceptable. But is racism becoming soccer's latest fashion?

It is abhorrent. It is degrading and demoralizing. Racial abuse has no place in modern society or any other society for that matter. It is not cool, clever or humorous. It is simply unacceptable.

But is racism becoming soccer's latest fashion?

I have paid my money and had my say. Over the years I have attended plenty of matches as a fan in the knowledge my admission fee entitled me to my opinion. My ticket stub is my passport to shout as loudly as I want and be as biased as I fancy.

That's what fans do. As a supporter I am playing my part to try and help my team win. Inevitably I will exalt and encourage "my" players and I will jeer and disparage the opposition. The referee will get the benefit of the doubt until he unfairly penalizes my team and visiting fans will be vocally reminded to pipe down.

This is theatre where the level of entertainment depends on audience participation. We'll cheer the goodies and boo the baddies. The better the atmosphere, the better the game. My mother would not appreciate the language but then it is not intended for her to hear.

It is raw and unrehearsed. It is instinctive and reactionary. It is an excuse to ignore political correctness but never an excuse to introduce racism.

And yet the beast is back. Let's not presume for a moment it ever went away but all of a sudden accusations of racial abuse, both on and off the field, are casting a long, ominous shadow over the beautiful game. What began as an isolated complaint is threatening to turn into an epidemic.

Paying the price

Luis Suarez has paid the price. Despite strong support from the president of Uruguay and the vast majority of his fellow countrymen, the Football Association in England found him guilty of racially abusing a black opponent. Patrice Evra is still waiting for an apologetic handshake which serves only to fan the flames.

John Terry, too, has been punished. The former England captain is guilty of nothing but a similar charge and will not be heard in court until after the European championships. As a result the Chelsea defender is, again, denied the opportunity to lead his country at a major competition. The FA's unilateral stance has left it looking for a new coach, as well as someone to wear the armband.

Mario Balotelli wants justice. The controversial Italian claims monkey chants were directed at him by Porto fans during a Europa League tie. Teammate Yaya Toure also heard the alleged abuse and UEFA has launched an investigation as the Portuguese club strongly protests its innocence.

Zero tolerance

We are living in a brave and uncomfortable world of zero tolerance. It is a world where players are prepared to break the code of silence and point accusing fingers at fellow professionals whom they believe are racists. The victims are speaking up, ready to expose the bigots for what they are.

The question is why now? Why has it taken so long for black players to find their voices and set the record straight? The "Kick It Out" campaign, an organization set up to raise awareness and eliminate racism from the game has been around since the mid '90s.

Culture certainly plays a part. In many countries where soccer is the national sport and the stakes are high, foul and abusive language on the field is very much the norm. Player A will do, and say, whatever he has to, to win his physical and mental battle with Player B and vice-versa.

It is about intimidation and the message is always the same. Call it a threat, an insult or old-fashioned bullying, but in the heat of battle respect goes out the window in pursuit of victory by almost any means. A failure to "man-up" is seen as a sign of weakness and will be targeted by individual opponents.

The fact is, I believe, generations of black players have been racially abused but kept their counsel. Complaining to the authorities was not an option because it would contravene the players' unwritten law which states: What happens on the field stays on the field.

Not any longer. We all know racism in the workplace is intolerable so why should it be any different in a footballer's "office?" In short, it shouldn't but in a "professional" world where personal abuse is an effective weapon in the struggle for supremacy, racism has been allowed to fester at the bottom of the barrel.

Police themselves

It needs to be flushed out. If the trickle of complaints becomes a flood and players are ready to police themselves, we will be hearing a lot more about racism in soccer. Ultimately it is the only effective way to deal with the problem. Fear of exposure will force ill-educated professionals to think twice before launching into a verbal tirade laced with racism against a black opponent.

There are always risks involved. Some will see the campaign as a witch-hunt but there is a bigger danger. Giving racism the oxygen of publicity it needs to become obsolete will encourage some to jump on the bandwagon. Making the subject a hot topic, almost fashionable, will give the gullible an excuse to employ copycat tactics.

There is an argument that publicizing the problem only makes it worse. Nonetheless, the media has its part to play. It has a duty to raise awareness and, if necessary, name and shame the culprits. If racism remains a cancer in the game, it must be eradicated and the perpetrators must have nowhere to hide.

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