Despite blatant taunts and incidents, the head of world football’s governing body says we need to remember that it’s just “a game.”
FIFA president Sepp Blatter recently proclaimed that there are no racial issues in international soccer, adding that players who believe they have experienced racism should remember “this is a game.”
Apparently Blatter, who is Swiss, has chosen to take a head-in-the-sand approach to the issues in his sport, despite some troubling episodes. According to a CNN report, police in England are investigating two high-profile allegations of player-on-player racism involving Liverpool’s Uruguayan striker Luis Suárez and Chelsea and England captain John Terry.
Additionally, Brazilian defender Roberto Carlos walked off the field after a banana was thrown at him from the stands in a Russian league match. And also, Chelsea’s midfield Yossi Benayoun, of Israel, was subjected to racial slurs which prompted an apology from the Malaysian Football Association.
Yet there is no major race problem in the sport, according to Blatter.
"There is no racism, there is maybe one of the players towards the other, he has a word or a gesture which is not the correct one, but also the one who is affected by that, he should say it's a game, we are in a game,” Blatter said to CNN.
"At the end of the game, we shake hands, this can happen, because we have worked so hard against racism and discrimination."
But that is hard to believe after the occurrence of so many recent incidents, including Wednesday’s announcement that the English Football league has charged Suárez over a confrontation with United’s Patrice Evra during an English Premier League match in October. Suárez denies claims by Evra that he directed racial taunts at him.
Blatter later felt the need to clarify his position, in a statement posted on the FIFA website. Yes, tough things happen in the heat of battle, he suggested. But afterward, players shake hands and apologize.
"Having said that,” Blatter added, “I want to stress again that I do not want to diminish the dimension of the problem of racism in society and in sport. I am committed to fighting this plague and kicking it out of football."
(Photo: Harold Cunningham/Getty Images)