In two separate interviews in November last year, FIFA President Sepp Blatter not only claimed that racism in football was not a problem, but that, if by chance it did arise, it could easily be settled with a handshake. Unless you have been hibernating in the past few weeks, or had your head firmly buried in the sand, it is startlingly obvious that this incendiary statement is not true.
Campaigns to eradicate racism from our beloved game have actually been ongoing for many years. In 1993, the notable movement ‘Let’s Kick Racism Out of Football’ was launched, followed by the body ‘Kick it Out’ in 1997. Working to challenge discrimination and encourage inclusive practices, these campaigns seem to have fallen on deaf ears recently and a huge race row has erupted in the English game.
…felt the need to stick their oars in.
The impact of these disputes has now been so damaging, that politicians have felt the need to stick their oars in. Yesterday, David Cameron announced his plans to hold a summit on racism in football in an attempt to rescue the game from a return to the ‘bad old days’. Even Luis Suarez and Kenny Dalglish have realised that the consequences of their actions could have wide repercussions outside their egotistical world and have issued a public apology for their conduct on Saturday.
Since Suarez’s refusal to shake Evra’s hand, a video has come to light which, although potentially humorous, shows the potential damage caused by his embarrassing behaviour. In the following day’s game between Aston Villa and Manchester City, the Villa mascot, a boy of around 11 years of age, decided to ‘imitate’ the Uruguayan’s etiquette. When face-to-face with the City mascot, he elected to similarly brush past him, snubbing his offer of a friendly hand. Whether this manner of conducting himself was directly influenced by Suarez is under dispute, but it certainly goes some way to demonstrating the possible effects of this unresolved situation.
…no chance for Sepp Blatter’s theory…
It seems completely incomprehensible that the FA even allowed this pre-match ritual to take place, when only 2 weeks earlier, they made the decision, with the permission of the clubs, to cancel these niceties between QPR and Chelsea. The media hype surrounding this FA Cup game focused on whether Anton Ferdinand would shake the hand of John Terry, the other notorious racial abuse case still marring the English game. Yet there was no chance for Sepp Blatter’s theory to be put to the test, with the FA intelligently diffusing the situation. Perhaps if the Premier League had taken a similar line with the Suarez and Evra case, we would not still be discussing the issue of a simple handshake today.
If Saturday’s events are anything to go by, it seems that the most sensible option is to forgo all pre-match handshakes and allow the media to find their fuel elsewhere. Yet this does not settle the real issue, the issue of racism. In the close of this article I will not embark on a vitriolic campaign to source out the causes of racism and devise punishments for those players who are alleged to have committed these crimes, but I will advocate, seemingly along with the rest of the World, that Sepp Blatter’s advice seems thoroughly disrespectful and unsubstantiated. Solving racism in football will take a lot more than a handshake.