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Why UEFA Cannot Afford To Turn A Blind Eye
Footytubeblog (Blog) 4 years ago
I’m still slightly concerned at how lightly Uefa are taking this issue about racism in Poland and Ukraine. Football governing bodies’ decision to take high-profile football tournaments to different parts of the world is undoubtedly a positive step for the game. The culmination of a much-loved sport arriving in South Africa was wonderful for the nation and the continent of Africa. And while there were of course problems, FIFA were not faced with controversies equal to those in Poland and Ukraine. Uefa has an opportunity over the next few weeks to firmly establish a zero tolerance stance against racism. Sadly, I’m not entirely sure whether they will.

Following their visit to Auschwitz, the Dutch national team were subjected to racist chants during their public training session, according to captain Mark van Bommel. Naturally, van Bommel stated his intention to lead his team off the field of play should similar chants be heard during the tournament. While Ibrahim Afellay underlined the unity within the squad by stating, “If the captain turns right, we all turn right.”

Worryingly, Uefa seemed more interested in sweeping this particular incident under the carpet. The governing body almost shamefully stated that the crowd were simply voicing their displeasure that none of the games would be played in Krakow. At the time, Uefa seem firmly of the belief that there was no malice in the chanting and it was simply misconstrued.

I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that Uefa, and FIFA for that matter, are run by a group of men who are deliberately out of touch with the game and who seek to do very little to stamp out these problems. That may be so. But how can someone misunderstand obvious racist chants? Van Bommel echoed these thoughts by vehemently saying, “Open your ears. If you did hear and don’t want to hear it, that is even worse.”

There’s nothing wrong with Michel Platini’s comments with regards to the wider social problem and that racism in Poland and Ukraine are not simply restricted to football. But this is his sport and his tournament, where are the actions to remove this problem from the stadiums?

There seems to be a real lack of responsibility and knowledge of responsibility from Uefa, and by extension FIFA as well. Poland and Ukraine are obviously football nations with a lot of history of the game; even if some of those are darker chapters. There will be a desire from some sections of support to follow the example laid out by the wider football community to eradicate racism. Sadly from what we’ve seen so far, Uefa are taking a backseat approach to much of this.

Platini has stated his decision to give referees more power during games should the issue of racism come up. But another concern is the question of why we should have a globally celebrated sport cast aside by the overriding theme of racism. Again, I understand football’s governing bodies wanting to take the game to these parts of the world. But if the issue is so overt, as last month’s Panorama documentary “Stadiums of Hate” pointed out, then why not simply say to these countries that they cannot be trusted and should not be privileged to host tournaments such as this.

Michel Platini went on to underline that his reputation would and should not be tarnished should acts of racism find its way into the tournament. But the truth is, the football world will be observing what happens under Platini’s watch. How will he deal with it? Will players like Mario Balotelli be yellow carded if they walk off the pitch? Something which the Uefa President confirmed, as players are not in a position of power to call off a game.

You can understand Uefa and FIFA’s desire to truly make football a global sport. There is a lot of good nature from the wish to help countries further develop and to use the sport as a powerful tool to aid in that development. But somewhere, there is an underlying feeling that any negative outcome from this tournament could severely weaken the game and cast a stain on those in positions of power.

Blog By Thomas Hallett

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