Racism in Football

No not American football, soccer. European soccer, specifically, and therefore, football. Just to set the definition for that term before we go forward.

Racism in football has been blatant for decades, among both players and fans. It’s so common that Wikipedia has a whole list of specific incidents, and of course that’s not necessarily going to do more than scratch the surface by bringing up the best-known cases. In spite of sweeping campaigns to get both fans and players to tone it down, it persists. In October, Liverpool’s star Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez sparked another round of media frenzy after allegedly using abusive language towards black French player Patrice Evra. The Football Association just yesterday handed out an 8 match ban and fined him the equivalent of a nice luxury car. And I’m torn on that.

On the one hand, I totally agree with the head of the Player’s Association who pointed out that international players who come to play in England need to be aware of the local cultural customs. The language Suarez used isn’t considered abusive at all in Uruguay: in fact it’s caused a lot of confusion there that he’s seeing a ban at all. But when in Rome, etc. Awareness of that sort of thing is critical.

On the other hand, the FA needs to be equally culturally aware of the players its teams are bringing in. I feel they acted correctly with some form of punishment, but 8 games for a comment that may not have been intended with any malice is extreme. I’ve heard some fans (mostly those that dislike Liverpool of course) call for the team to suffer a points deduction on the league table, which strikes me as ridiculous.

On the gripping hand, an 8 game ban is stupidly incongruous for the English FA in light of the fact that they lobbied the UEFA (the pan-European association body) who had handed a mere three game ban to English striker Wayne Rooney after he kicked a player already on the ground. They were happy to have his Euro Cup ban reduced to two games. Punches and kicks can’t hurt your players but words are deadly and dangerous things, I guess.

And with that in mind, fans are quite anxious to see what comes of another incident that happened the following week, when Chelsea’s John Terry was caught on camera using far more obvious and blatant slurs. In that particular instance the police were involved (racial harassment can warrant criminal charges in the UK), and they’re going to announce the results of their investigation this afternoon. There’s a lot of speculation that he’ll see a totally different treatment than Suarez by the FA for the matter.

I guess we’ll see. Racism is everywhere, after all.

edit- It IS also worth pointing out that both Suarez and Terry have certain controversial histories. Suarez, before he went to Liverpool, had at one point suffered a 7 match ban (in a non-English league) for biting another player, for instance, and he’s under review by the FA for flipping off fans during a match a couple weeks after this incident. Terry has had enough issues to warrant a Controversies section on his Wikipedia page.

edit edit- Charges for Terry announced. No word on whether the FA will follow up with bans on top of whatever results of a criminal trial, but if they intend to be consistent they should get on that ASAP.