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FIFA's hypocrisy
by Asa Butcher
Issue 16
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Before the England and Portugal's quarterfinal, David Beckham and Luis Figo both emotionally pleaded with football fans across the world to stop racism on the terraces. There words represented FIFA's policy of ridding the sport of this ignorant practice, but this is the same FIFA that punished Spain with a laughable fine following racist taunts during England's friendly in Spain in November 2004.

FIFA finally brought in anti-racism legislation in March that can mean match suspensions, point deductions and disqualification from competitions as possible punishments against acts of racism. Uefa spokesman William Gaillard said that it would be unfair to kick out a whole club because of the behaviour of a few fans, but what about the '80s when all British clubs were banned from Europe following the Heysel disaster.

After the disaster, only British clubs were made to suffer; there was no fine for Juventus or Uefa for selecting an unsuitable stadium. Today we are made to listen to FIFA and Uefa announce plans to fight racism, plans that British football have implemented for the past few years, with the police, footballers and supporters all actively involved.

When FIFA decided to fine the Spanish FA for the monkey chants the Spanish supporters made at Shaun Wright-Phillips and Ashley Cole they had their chance to send a strong signal about racism. Instead, they fined the Spanish FA just €65,000 and now expect fans to listen to statements read by our international captains. FIFA and Uefa had the chance and blew it, and Rio Ferdinand reacted by saying, "It is time for Uefa to stop paying lip service to the problem."

Spain should have been given a warning in November 2004 that if abuse happens again in their country they will be banned or have points deducted from the next international competition, which would have been the 2006 World Cup. It did happen again in a La Liga between Barcelona and Real Zaragoza in February of this year.

Samuel Eto'o, the Cameroon international and Barcelona striker, had to be stopped from leaving the pitch after suffering abuse from the Real Zaragoza crowd. The Spanish Football Federation inflicted an embarrassing €9,000 fine on the club, which simply reflects how serious everybody is really taking this problem in their domestic leagues.

Following the Eto'o incident one player commented that he had been abused at other grounds in Spain but players need to rise above this. I disagree with his 'sticks and stones' attitude because the abuse should not occur in the first place. Being a man and rising above it does not work for everybody, and why should they have to?

The UK takes racism in football seriously and it is stamping it out as fast as it has done with hooliganism. How many news stories did you read about the 130,000-plus fans in Germany causing trouble? It is about time that FIFA tore up those PR statements and use them to light a bonfire under the football associations that refuse to tackle the problem at the domestic level. Ban them. Fine them. Just do what it takes.

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