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Jewish Affairs

Say No To Racism In Soccer

At this year’s World Cup soccer tournament in Brazil, which ends on July 13, players have held aloft banners inscribed with the words “Say no to racism.” It’s a worthy, long overdue slogan because racism has been a persistent and ugly feature of professional soccer, particularly in Europe.

FIFA finally recognizes that racism is a problem in professional soccer
FIFA finally recognizes that racism is a problem in professional soccer

The “Say no to racism” campaign is sanctioned by the governing body of soccer, FIFA, the Federation Internationale de Football Association. But one suspects that the campaign took flight after Brazil’s president, Dilma Roussef, insisted that the 2014 World Cup should contain an anti-racist message.

Since Brazil has the largest black population outside the African continent, it was entirely appropriate that FIFA’s campaign was launched in Brazil.

Dilma Roussef
Dilma Roussef

FIFA’s president, Sepp Blatter, had previously denied that racism is a problem in soccer. But others, like Roussef, knew better. Racism, whether directed at blacks, Jews or Muslims, is a despicable phenomenon that cannot be tolerated. Yet it has thrived because professional soccer leagues have been loathe to enforce serious sanctions against players, match officials and fans guilty of racist behavior.

Star players like Dani Alves of Brazil and Mario Balotelli of Italy have been subjected to racist taunts and verbal abuse by ethnocentric fans. And at this year’s World Cup, Russian and Croatian fans were spotted in the stands waving placards with antisemitic and neo-Nazi symbols.

 

Mario Balotelli, right, has been subjected to racist taunts
Mario Balotelli, right, has been subjected to racist taunts

Much to its credit, FIFA has┬átaken a principled position against racism. To cite an example, one player from Croatia’s team was banned from participating at the current World Cup after he was heard shouting offensive slogans associated with the Nazi-backed fascist/antisemitic Croatian puppet state.

Given the fact that many of the countries represented at the World Cup have fielded teams with black and mixed-race players, it is fair to say that racism has absolutely no place in soccer.

If soccer is to remain the world’s most “beautiful game,” players, officials and fans alike will have to learn to curb their darkest impulses. If they cannot keep their racist feelings at bay, they should pay the ultimate penalty — expulsion from the team, the stadium and, if necessary, the game itself.