You would think in the 21st Century, racism would be a problem that had been well and truly stamped out of the beautiful game. However, over the last few seasons it has become more and more apparent that there is a deep rooted problem of racism in the game, not only between players but also between entire crowds and particular players. It’s not just a problem that is focused in one particular league either. It is clear that La Liga have a huge problem with it, highlighted by multiple direct incidents such as the Bananas being thrown at Alvez and Neymar during the Barcelona vs Espanyol game on the 29/03/14. Direct incidents are easy to highlight, and easier to tackle, however there is even a possibility of indirect incidents, these are a little more speculative and are probably harder to identify. The question is what is being done about them? And is it enough punishment to deter further incidents?
The two notable incidents in the Premier League are that of Suarez and Evra as well as Terry and Anton Ferdinand; both incidents were ambiguous in the sense that they were based on the testimonies of the players. While Suarez admitted to saying the word “negro” he claimed to have said it in a non insulting way; how that’s possible I’m not so sure. Terry’s incident was similar and he was ultimately found guilty by the FA. More recently we have found that fans have become a lot more bold with their expressions and it is not as discrete as were the cases of Suarez and Terry.
A popular gimmick now is to taunt black players by using monkey chants, such blatant racism could be seen at Man City’s visit to CSKA Moscow, direct at Man City’s Yaya Toure. Further cases included racial abuse directed towards AC Milan’s Nigel De Jong. Tottenham’s Paulinho played in Lithuania and Poland before moving to Italy, in Eastern Europe’s domestic leagues he was subject to terrifying amounts of racism, and at one point he even considered quitting football. One of the most notable qualities of Brazilian players is their passion to play football, so if there was a reason for it to stop them wanting to continue that passion, then it must be a huge problem. These incidents are not just isolated to Eastern Europe, this sort of behaviour can be exhibited all over Europe and it shouldn’t be tolerated. The most recent incident occurred in Barcelona’s match against Espanyol where the fans threw bananas mockingly at Neymar and Alvez, this wasn’t the first time it happened and it wouldn’t be the last. So how are players counteracting the blatant displays of racism?
As I said earlier, the banana incident involving the Barcelona duo wasn’t an isolated incident, and just as expected it occurred again at Villarreal, however this time Alvez did something genius. He simply picked up the banana and ate it, in one single action he achieved multiple things. He took away any significance of the incident, he took all the attention away from the racist aspect and focused it all on him defusing the situation entirely. Then, he went back to taking the corner kick like nothing had happened, meeting such a negative action with a positive one was such an effective way to tackle the situation. Dani Alvez take a bow son (Gray, 2004). The next thing that occurred was a social media campaign, that included large amounts of footballers, most controversially including Luiz Suarez of all people, with the trend #SayNoToRacism and #WeAreAllMonkeys. It was a great event to witness the football community on so many different levels from professionals all the way to the fans participating in such a trend. There are rumours that it was planned by a marketing agency after the events of the Espanyol game, whether this is true or not does not take away from the feat of Alvez’s actions. However, there is only so much the players can do, only so many bananas that can be eaten and only so many campaigns can take place before the issue is well and truly kicked out of football.
Also, Royal Spanish Football Federation also fined Villarreal for the their fan’s racist actions. The could face up to 3 years in jail, he is also banned for life from ever attending a home game. So you ask what more progress can be made? Surely, these punishments are all suitable enough? Well, they are, however it is the severity of the punishments that it not nearly enough for me. How much was Villarreal fined? £10,000. How much was Suarez fined for racially abusing Evra? £40,000 with an 8 match ban. To me and you this sounds like a lot of money, for those of us who aren’t going in to Investment Banking! We must remember the likes of Suarez are earning up to £200,000. Per week. Yes, you read that correctly, so these fines are pocket change to these players, let alone the clubs. You just have to look at the new Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations to see the sort of punishments that need to be handed to these clubs and players. Free spending Man City and PSG have been hit with 60 million euro fines each, and have been limited to spending less than 60 million euros in the next season’s transfer windows. Furthermore, 10 million euros has been deducted from the money they would have been awarded from participating in this season’s Champions League as well as money from their participation in next season’s competition.
The FFP sanctions are exactly the kinds of punishment that need to be dealt out to anyone who racially abuses a player. Even if it’s a fan, the club is responsible for their fans and who they admit in to their stadium. Whether it is dealt with on a three strike system, or clubs and players are made an example of; the governing bodies of football need to act now if they want to make any sort of effort towards dealing with this problem. If the penalties aren’t severe enough, then fans most definitely will not be deterred from racially abusing players and neither will anyone else. Alvez’s gesture was a positive step in the right direction to tackling racism in football but it won’t be enough unless the governing bodies stamp down it as harshly as they have with financial fair play.