I’m sure that I’m not the only person who has spent time this week reading the stories of Pescara midfielder Sulley Muntari’s suspension for walking off the pitch last weekend after receiving racist abuse from a group of Cagliari fans. The Ghanaian international was initially booked for dissent after complaining to the referee about the abuse, but when nothing was done to stop the abuse he walked off the pitch in protest, for which he received a second yellow card and a subsequent one-game ban. Thankfully after a number of calls for players to strike, the Italian Football Federation have overturned the ban, however this is still another ugly blotch on the record of European football.
Racism as a whole is ugly and unnecessary. There is no excuse for it in 2017. For people (and I hesitate to use that word to describe such disgusting pigs) to behave this way at a sports event where children are certain to be present – not to mention possibly watching at home on television – should be unforgivable! And yet the Federation stated that they cannot act against Cagliari as fewer than 1% of their fans at the game were involved. The only thing I have seen from Cagliari is a comment that their fans as a whole are not racist, no suggestion that the incident will be investigated and the guilty parties punished. In my eyes, this reaction is absolutely disgusting!
This is by no means an isolated incident of racism in football:
- December 2012 – Fans of Zenit Saint Petersburg published a manifesto demanding that the club exclude all non-white and homosexual players from the club’s roster
- January 2013 – Kevin Prince-Boateng and his Milan teammates walked off the pitch midway through a friendly against Pro Patria after racist abuse from the lower-league team’s fans
- April 2014 – Possibly the most well-known of the incidents on this list, Barcelona’s Dani Alves had a banana thrown at him mid-game by Villarreal fans. The Brazilian picked it up, peeled it and took a bite from it
- May 2014 – Bananas were thrown at Milan players Kévin Constant and Nigel de Jong by Atlanta fans
- September 2014 – Dynamo Moscow’s Christopher Samba was racially abused by fans during a local derby against Torpedo Moscow. Torpedo were punished, however Samba was also banned for two games for swearing at the racist fans.
- 2015 – Benfica’s Renato Sanches was subjected to monkey chants from Rio Ave fans as he left the pitch
- February 2015 – Chelsea fans were filmed pushing a black passenger off a Metro carriage in Paris ahead of a Champions League game against PSG. They were heard to be chanting “We’re racist, we’re racist, and that’s the way we like it!”
This is by no means a comprehensive list of the racist incidents in European football over the last 5 years, a quick trawl of the internet will find you plenty of other examples.
Though rugby is by no means perfect, one of the things I am really proud of in my sport is how inclusive and respectful the fans are as a whole, there is plenty of banter between fans and players, but everyone generally knows where the line is and avoids crossing it. Unfortunately that line appears to be crossed far too often in football. I am sure that the people involved are just a small minority of football ‘fans’ but they unfortunately make such a spectacle, many innocent fans are tarnished with the same brush.
I look forward to the day when people are able to play the game they love without having to worry about the way they are treated by other players and fans. If footballers are still getting abused for the colour of their skin, why would any player want to reveal their sexuality?
Hopefully big steps will taken by all the authorities and governing bodies to make sure that any abuse if properly dealt with. We want to be discussing the actions of the players on the field, not the pigs in the stands!
What are your thoughts on the Sulley Muntari situation? Have you witnessed other fans doing/saying anything that made you ashamed to be part of the same group? Or have you yourself been abused while playing? Comment on here or feel free to tweet me @PS_tetheridge