After the notable incident involving Kevin Prince-Boateng in Italy last week False Nine editor, Andrew Belt, finds Sepp Blatter guilty of saying one thing and doing another in the fight against racism…
“There should be very strong, harsh punishment when it comes to discrimination and racism.”
This is Sepp Blatter, FIFA President, speaking in relation to the punishment meted out by Uefa to the Serbian FA after the England under-21 team were subjected to horrific racist chanting and violence in the country during a Euro 2013 qualification game.
The Serbian FA were fined 80, 000 euros with the country’s under-21 team forced to play their next competitive fixture behind closed doors.
Four Serbian players were banned while two of their coaches were suspended for two years.
In a move that surprised many, given the intense racial and violent provocation acted out by a nationalistic crowd and not helped by the Serbia under-21 representatives, England’s Tom Ince and Steven Caulker were also given bans by Uefa.
Commentators were quick to draw comparisons with the 100, 000 euros fine handed out to Nicklas Bendtner after he revealed a sponsor’s logo on his underwear during a Euro 2012 group game.
Was illegal advertising really deemed more serious than racial hatred?
Many were damning of the punishment and, spotting this, Blatter publicly aired his misgivings over the Uefa judgement in the middle of December – the quote at the top of this article part of his statement.
At the news conference in Tokyo, Blatter said: “I will take up the discussion with the president of Uefa.”
Following this, an investigation of Uefa’s handling of the case is underway and being undertaken by… Uefa.
Last Thursday, Kevin Prince-Boateng led a walk-off in the middle of a friendly after spectators of their lowly opponents, Pro Patria, engaged in racist chants. Not quite a Rosa Parks moment but Prince-Boateng and his supportive AC Milan team mates and coaching team sent out a clear message: this behaviour will not be tolerated.
Once again, Blatter weighed into the argument and said that he disagreed with the action of the AC Milan players, citing that he did not feel that walking off the pitch was the right way to respond to such provocation.
He echoed the sentiments of Uefa president, Michel Platini, who declared that any player who walked off due to racial abuse would be booked ahead of Euro 2012.
Blatter was criticised for his remarks and two days later stated that Prince-Boateng’s reaction was “praiseworthy but it cannot be the long-term solution” in an apparent backtrack from his earlier comments.
So, what is the solution then, Mr Blatter?
“We have to find other sustainable solutions to tackle racism and discrimination at its roots otherwise, such stands will be made in isolation and lost in the heat of the general polemic.”
In other words, he doesn’t know.
Yet, he was more forthright when initially lambasting Prince-Boateng and AC Milan for their reaction in the game, and suggested racist incidents should result in playing punishments for offending teams, saying:
“The only solution is to be very harsh with the sanctions – and the sanctions must be a deduction of points or something similar.”
Very few people would argue against points deductions and more hard-hitting sanctions being taken against clubs and organisations guilty of racial abuse.
When not hurriedly offering his opinion on racial incidents, sometimes Blatter’s organisation is in charge of handing out punishments to offending parties themselves.
Hungary supporters made anti-Semitic chants when Israel played in their country in August and Bulgaria fans were pulled up for racially abusing a black player during a game versus Denmark in October.
Having reviewed the incidents, FIFA has spoken.
Deductions of points or something similar you would think after Blatter called this “the only solution”?
The Bulgarian FA were fined £23, 685 and the Hungarian FA £27, 051. Both countries will have to play their next home World Cup qualifiers behind closed doors.
Somehow, the same leniency Blatter highlighted in Serbia’s case has been demonstrated in his own organisation’s handling of racist incidents.
For all the talk of points deductions and being “very harsh with the sanctions”, FIFA have followed Uefa’s weak lead.
FIFA have warned both nations that any repeats of the racist incidents could lead to forfeited matches, points deductions or disqualification from a competition though shouldn’t expect anyone to hold their breath.
Racist incidents should be dealt with zero tolerance with immediate points deductions a minimum requirement.
Petty fines and a game behind closed doors does not solve the problem. Telling them not to do it again does not send out the right message.
Never mind the FA, the two main world football governing bodies are not doing enough to rid this evil from the game.
Protest hard enough and Blatter might even deliver a statement which goes along with the common consensus but he is not setting the standard which someone in his powerful position should be doing.
Zero tolerance is the only answer and if Blatter and Platini aren’t going to do anything about it then why shouldn’t Prince-Boateng and others subjected to racial abuse not walk off the pitch?
Prince-Boateng’s former team mate, Clarence Seedorf, however, doesn’t believe walking off the pitch does enough to solve the problem and the incident remains a complex issue within football as to its future implications but it is up to Blatter and Platini to make more of a stand against racist incidents so that the authorities can be trusted to adequately deal with these shameful episodes without players having to take matters into their own hands.
Sanctions showing that FIFA and Uefa are doing their utmost to kick racism out of football are long overdue.
Show racism the red card.
Follow The False Nine on Twitter: @The_False_Nine