Sepp Blatter’s words don’t match his actions against racism, but perhaps the abuse of a former Arsenal player will make him act
“There is no racism. Maybe one player to another… he has a word or a gesture which is not correct. But the one affected by that should say: ‘This is the game’.”
Despite a series of foot-in-mouth clarifications of his implausibly misinformed comments following his statement on CNN, the Fifa president’s personal views on racism are clear. It’s a minor and unimportant issue in football.
Despite this, he has remained and his grubby cling to power has involved support from the fantastically named South African government minister, Tokyo Sexwale, who categorically insisted that Blatter wasn’t a racist, whilst the offender continued to blab unintentionally racist comments in a tourettes-like fashion.
“My comments have been misunderstood” he bafooned. “I wanted to express that, as football players, you have ‘battles’ with opponents… then, at the end, you apologise and shake hands.”
Condemnation of his comments came thick and fast from the media and within the game, most notably from Rio Ferdinand on twitter, David Beckham and from Andy/Andrew Cole: “Sepp Blatter, do me a favour please. A handshake on the pitch? To racist abuse?”
Racism in football arguably isn’t as prevalent as it was say 20 years ago, but to blindly dismiss it as a minor inconvenience suggests that Blatter’s elevated status has sheltered him from the realities of the game.
The fact that the continuing race row between John Terry and Anton Ferdinand is currently a topic of great interest in this country should at the very least have alerted him to the fact the problem is still at large.
With Fifa keen to improve their image after a series of recent scandals, Blatter’s blabbing will have done nothing the establishment’s credible facade, which has begun to unravel like a criminal organisation in the last throws of power.
Four executive committee members have already been banned or resigned this year amid corruption allegations and six Caribbean football officials have been sanctioned this month by Fifa following the Mohammed bin Hammam bribery scandal.
A statement of strong words written by committee was issued in a desperate attempt to heal the wound of Blatter’s words, but no action was promised.
“I am committed to the fight against racism and I will not stop until I have stamped out racism in football”
Whilst words are plentiful from Blatter, meaningful action seemingly isn’t. In the same week of his comments the Bulgarian Football Union was fined the derisory amount of £34,230 by Uefa for ‘discriminatory behaviour’ which is currently being appealed, despite manager Lothar Matthaus issuing an apology for the chanting and Theo Walcott describing the abuse as “very clear”.
This follows the Croatian Football Federation being fined a measly £15,000 for fans’ racist behaviour towards England striker Emile Heskey in 2008 and suggests little more than a slap on the wrists, as opposed to a statement intending to stamp the practise out.
These amounts do little more than make the relevant parties take temporary note and they’re unlikely to prioritise the matter as a result of the fine and become motivated to make greater strides towards rectifying the problem.
Fifa could instead be imposing standards of how racism should be confronted by domestic football associations and continental confederations, with perhaps the threat of playing future games behind closed doors or a more significant and painful financial fine being more appropriate.
Instead the current practise appears to be to tow the anti-racism line, impose a meaningless fine and put the problem to the bottom of the pile.
Blatter though has an opportunity to act, after Galatasaray’s former Arsenal player Emmanuel Eboue, was singled out for abuse from Besiktas fans at the weekend.
Setting the standard for a significant punishment would match Blatter’s rhetoric that he intends to eradicate racism from the game, but another meaningless fine only ensures that the problem, which Blatter originally insisted wasn’t a problem persists.
• Watch on mute as the music only tells your ears what your eyes already know.Tags: Arsenal, FIFA, Premier League, Sepp Blatter
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