I recently read a New York Times article describing how AC Milan players abandoned an exhibition match against Pro Patria, a lower division Italian team after racist chants and acts were directed against Milan's Ghanian-German player, Kevin-Prince Boateng. Boateng tweeted about the incident later, and was retweeted by thousands (Which gave me some faith in sport fans). The reactions of the Milan players and their fans were largely unanimous and unswerving -- but the incident made me question what are football authorities doing to prevent such acts?
I remembered a similar incident, where Premier league players John Terry of Chelsea, and Luis Suarez of Liverpool were accused and convicted of 'racial slurs'. Both players were banned from football for a number of matches and fined hefty sums. At the time, I was surprised that the reactions were mostly debates on whether the players' words constituted racism or not. Comically, Terry rushed to publish an exonerating of him with four black ladies, as Jack of gastwonfc.com blogged at the time. I thought that the reason these players actions were taken lightly was because these players were important in their teams, and somehow that exempted them from facing the same standards as others.
Some organization are taking the right steps, in my opinoin. For example, the recent Euro 2012 tournament saw the launch of the Respect campaign. I liked the way the campaign countered the pressure that was building due to the proliferation of racist incidents, and how it directly addressed concerns that the tournament hosts (Poland and the Ukraine) harboured some of the more, shall we say extreme, racial opinions amongst their fans.
The recent incident shows that even though bodies like UEFA and FIFA have been working to resolve such issues that have resulted from the emergence of talents from the world over that are extremely important in the game of major European teams, which traditionally did not have a diverse player base. I am confident that the beautiful game can overcome discrimination, and racist attitudes, and that the World cup will retain its status as the most internationally popular and uniting sporting event.Omar was born in the Mid-east, grew up in London, and moved to Vancouver for university. Studying Economics and History, Omar hopes to find a career that involves writing while maintaining an international focus. Omar enjoys music, literature and astronomy. You can follow him @KutbiO or visit his blog at kutbio.wordpress.com. Photo Credit to UEFA.com