The Head of FIFA, world football’s governing body, has engulfed himself in yet another controversy following some incredibly dismissive comments about racism in football.
In a TV interview, Blatter stated that he did not believe racism was a problem in football, saying, “I would deny it. There is no racism”.
The FIFA President continued, “There is maybe one of the players towards another—he has a word or a gesture which is not the correct one. But the one who is affected by that, he should say that this is a game. We are in a game, and at the end of the game, we shake hands.”
On a day when the FA charged Luis Suarez with racially abusing Patrice Evra, Blatter announced that there was not a problem with racism in the sport, arguing that any confrontations caused by racist comments could be settled by a handshake at the end of a game.
The dismissive nature with which Blatter speaks of racism in the game, and his suggested solution to racist comments, are both a concern.
If players who are racially abused should shake the perpetrator’s hand and overlook the issue, should Jewish players respond to insulting comments about the Holocaust by shaking the perpetrators hand? Should players racially abused by fans shake their hands and move on?
As Rio Ferdinand asked on Twitter "Just for clarity if a player abuses a referee, does a shake of the hand after the game wipe the slate clean??"
The double standards here are so clear that surely even Blatter himself can recognise them.
While the suggestion that players just ignore an act, considered in most countries to be a criminal offense, and settle it with a handshake is almost laughable.
Why should a player even shake the hand of someone who has used skin colour to insult him?
Just because Blatter wants racism swept under the carpet does not mean it does not exist. Just because something is not reported does not mean it does not happen. Sadly, that appears to be what Blatter is saying though.
The comments seem arrogant and condescending in the extreme, and Blatter’s solution to the problem, a handshake, seems almost as worrying as his denial that racism is still in football today.
Suarez was charged just yesterday, and John Terry is still being investigated for allegedly racially abusing Anton Ferdinand. A Chelsea fan also faces punishment for making a racist comment aimed at Daniel Sturridge, a player for his own team.
In Russia, Roberto Carlos has been subject to separate incidents of racist abuse, including having bananas thrown at him.
Fans at Locomotiv Moscow also hang a huge banner in their stadium following the sale of Peter Odemwingie to West Brom, saying “Thank you West Brom,” next to a picture of a banana. (In a sadly ironic situation, Russia was awarded the 2018 World Cup by FIFA a short time afterwards.)
Mario Balotelli has suffered racist abuse from fans of his own international team, Spain's football manager has been found to have racially abuse an opposing player, and the Bulgarian fans have recently been charged with racially abusing England players during their Euro 2012 Qualifier in October.
But no, Blatter believes there is not a problem of racism in football.
The English game has always been advanced in dealing with racism, and it seems like FIFA, and Blatter, are taking a much more relaxed approach to a very serious matter.
Blatter’s simple notion of leaving all your grievances on the field is understandable in some circumstances, but to disregard racism in such an obvious way is worrying. Why should a player, who could have been subject to racist abuse for 90 minutes, simply shake the hand of his tormentor at the end of a game and pretend it never happened?
If a man was racially abused on the street he would be subject to a criminal investigation, but clearly, on the field, Blatter sees things differently. Do FIFA see racism differently from the law?
Pretending racism doesn’t exist in football is both ignorant and dangerous. It is just shying away from the problem. There is proof of racism in football all across the world, why should it be ignored?
FIFA is, again, dragging its feet on the issue, and Sepp Blatter’s personal views make it very difficult for FIFA to now take a tough stance on racism, particularly if the whole issue can be settled with a handshake.
Blatter’s credibility is surely at an all time low. His latest comments show that he is simply part of an outdated organisation that is in desperate need of modernisation.
While he has apologised, an apology can only go so far. Can Blatter now condemn players or fans found guilty of racism, when he denies racism exists in football, and believes the whole situation can be resolved with a handshake?
FIFA needs an overhaul, that much was clear after the corruption scandal, and where better to start than right at the top.
Blatter is stubborn, and won’t go quietly. He won’t go at all unless he’s put under extreme pressure, but fans and sponsors can help. If companies begin withdrawing their sponsorship of FIFA, then football’s governing body will be hit in the pocket; that’s how to really hurt the organisation.
However, it should not require a monetary penalty to force Blatter’s resignation. At a time when the world is trying to “Kick Racism Out of Football,” the most powerful man in world football seems oblivious to the importance of the whole campaign.
It’s time to go, Blatter, and take your outdated and ignorant views with you.
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