By Aliyu Yakubu Yusuf
Racism in football has been a problem that refuses to go away. Football is often rightly described as the beautiful game. However, the persistent problem of racism has been a blight on this enduring beauty. Despite the fact that numerous campaigns (such as “Say No To Racism” and “Black Lives Matter” etc.) sponsored by FIFA and other regional football associations, racism has seemingly been kryptonite for the footballing establishments.
I firmly believe that FIFA, UEFA, the media and most fans in Europe and America are not sincere about fighting racism. All these campaigns against racism are merely lip service that will never bring an end to this menace. Vinicius Junior is just the latest case that opens a fresh can of worms in a long list of racism storms that rocked the football world.
When the trio of Saka, Sancho and Rashford missed crucial penalties in England’s Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy, they were racially abused online by their own fans. Even Real Madrid fans are also guilty of racism towards black players from other clubs and their players. When FIFA released the votes for the last Ballon d’Or, and it appeared that Real Madrid’s Austria captain, David Alaba, had voted for Lionel Messi as his first pick ahead of his teammate Karim Benzema, Real Madrid fans racially abused him online. And he was forced to apologise. And these are the same people that are up in arms “protecting” Vinicius. If this is not hypocrisy, I don’t know what is.
Heck! Even fans at various French clubs were reported to have racially abused black players. And this is a country whose national team is simply an amalgam of players from their former African colonies. Imagine!
Racism is here to stay as long as the powers that be are not serious about tackling it. FIFA has a three-step process for dealing with racism during matches. First, the referee should stop the game and announces that racist chants are going on and should stop. Then, if the chants continue, the referee should apply the second stage, which is to instruct the players to go back to the dressing room and wait. After a while, the referee should ask the players to resume on the pitch and restart the game. Finally, if the chants continue, the referee should apply the third process, which is to stop the game entirely and award the three points to the opponents.
However, instead of making it mandatory for all regional football unions to adopt this process, FIFA only “recommend” it. Everyone knows that the only way to stop racism once and for all is to enforce this law. When clubs realise that some unscrupulous elements within their fanbase are making them lose points unnecessarily, they will fish out these “fans” and give them lifetime bans from stadiums.
The question is, ‘Do black lives really matter’?
Aliyu Yakubu Yusuf wrote from Bayero University, Kano. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.