From Arthur Wharton, the World’s first black to grace the professional football pitch in 1885, to Mario Balotelli, racial abuse still lives on. The influx of players from various continents into elite leagues continues to attract xenophobia.
Cases of racial assault, abuse and all sorts of gestures have increased remarkably in recent years, despite efforts such as “kick it out” to ensure the beautiful game is not tainted by intolerance.
In November 2012, Mr John Mann who led a racism task force for the Football Association, acknowledged that very little progress was made in tackling the problem. During an interview with BBC Radio 5, he said he had received complaints from Black, Asian and Jewish players.
Recently, Spanish club Villarreal was fined by the Spanish League after one of its supporters was seen throwing a banana at Barcelona defender Dani Alves.
Though there are worldwide calls for harsher penalty against people caught making racial remarks, a lot still needs to be done to eradicate it. The beautiful game is fast being brought into disrepute. This happens all too often when supporters of competing teams use intolerant insults to belittle opponents. Even opposing players themselves have at times been found to have got involved in such behaviours.
As the football World Cup gets underway in Brazil soon, it is an opportunity for nations to market togetherness. Professional footballers should uphold the highest standards of sportsmanship and ethics as required by Federation of International Football Association’s (FIFA’s) code of conduct.
It is also a chance to gauge how far football federations have come, in the fight against racism. At football leagues and certainly the World Cup, racial intolerance should be strongly discouraged.
To the contrary, this has not been the case. On occasions where a player has been found guilty of offending another, such a player has always got away with misconduct, with only a few games ban, or just a fine. Existing punitive measures are not deterrent enough.
Instead, offenders should be banned from tournaments or making them miss a season without playing football, or even have points deducted from their teams.
Simon J. Mone is a Civil Engineer. firstname.lastname@example.org