From June 12 to July 13 the world was fixated on Brazil. Sport fans that do not typically follow soccer could not help but find a team to support. In the midst of all the patriotism and excitement, there were several instances where a game went from a remarkable display of talent to a horrible platform for racism and discrimination.
Prior to the tournament, FIFA president, Sepp Blatter announced there would be zero tolerance for racism. While a casual observer might think that Luis Suarez’s bite was the biggest incident in the tournament, some thought it was FIFA’s inability to deliver their promise. The FARE (Football Against Racism in Europe) network reported a dozen incidences of discrimination to FIFA and none of them received sanctions. Below is a summary of the cases:
June 12: Croatian fans revealed a far-right banner with a fascist salute from the World War II Ustashe regime.
June 13: Mexican fans use homophobic chants targeted at the Cameroon goalkeeper.
June 13: Spanish player, Diego Costa, was called derogatory names and was another victim of homophobic chants.
June 16: German fans displayed a war flag from the German Empire that is used today by far-right groups.
June 17: During the Mexico versus Brazil match, both sets of fans directed more homophobic chants at the goalkeepers. In the second half, these chants were reported as the loudest chant heard in the stadium.
June 17: Russian fans displayed a banner with neo-Nazi symbols.
June 19: An England fan used social media to reveal that he was a victim of racial abuse from another English fan. In an unrelated incident, an English fan was racially and physically attacked (the fan being assaulted had a part of his ear bitten off and was punched several times). An observer in the crowd recorded the attack.
June 19: An individual who appeared to be supporting Columbia was shown wearing a priest costume with a Nazi symbol.
June 20: Two French fans dressed as what appeared to be “black maids.” They wore black face.
June 21: During the Germany versus Ghana match, some German fans had painted their faces black and wore t-shirts that read “Ghana.” A man also ran onto the pitch with several neo-Nazi symbols and acronym’s.
June 21: A Belgium fan painted his face black.
June 26: A fan group named “Uralmash supporters” from Russia displayed a banner that is used to depict “white supremacy” during the Algeria versus Russia match.
It is appalling that such actions received no punishments or bans from FIFA! These actions have no place in sport or society. I believe a leader is someone who stands up for justice and does not block its path. While FIFA may release statements that the World Cup will have zero tolerance for discrimination, these examples and the lack of response shows how some sport leaders are failing at using the global platform to positively impact society. I pray that individuals and organizations that are passionate about using sport for good see this as their call to act and not allow situations like these to remain part of the beautiful game. I know that our NCAS is always standing up for justice. It is why we are here!
Richard Lapchick (FB)