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The dark side of football

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It seems inevitable to have a major world sporting event today, and not have the organisers with a major concern.

Football’s world governing body FIFA has one of its biggest challenges as it stages its showpiece from June 9- July 9 in Germany this year.

Already faced with the largest number of finalists in the sport’s history (32), the growing incidence of racism in the sport adds another dimension to the complexity of hosting an event of such magnitude.{{more}}

The problem will be compounded as the increasing number of teams with black players on their roster should stretch the resources at the various stadiums to their limits, as FIFA tries to eradicate racism in football.

And with the finals being held in Europe, already things are not shaping up well for the targeted black players. Europe has been the pioneers for the racist attacks with several organised anti- blacks groupings set out to make their voices heard and their intentions known.

The infamous monkey chant whenever a black player touches the ball coupled with the throwing of bananas at them has been a familiar sight in Europe in the past year. Reports of players being spat on and having racial slurs hurled at them have added to the mix.

Some who have been target men are France’s Thierry Henry and Cameroon’s Samuel E’to, as both represented Arsenal and Barcelona respectively in Europe’s Champions League competition.

Racism reached its lowest ebb last year when Spanish Coach referred to Henry as a “piece of s…”- a substitute word for filth.

Spain, the cheer leaders in the racist movement, was at it when England faced them at home. Audible racial chants taunted the English players of Negro descent, reducing the intended competitive encounter to a despicable display of decadence. UEFA, Europe’s governing body, has responded with fines , delays of matches and the extreme punishment of spectator shut out of fans at home matches with a view to dent the host club’s coffers.

Other measures included anti- racism campaign by black as well as white players and the production of anti-racism slogans. The placement of video cameras across stadiums in Europe to catch offenders has been brought to the combat table.

Henry, too, has made his input. He established his ‘Stand Up, Speak Up Campaign’, with a view to ventilate the issue from a player’s perspective.

Anticipating a field day, advocates of racism have been served up with a perfect menu, while FIFA has its work cut out. That body at its congress held in Morocco last September recognised the issue as grave and sought to bring it to the fore, launching its own counter activities.

To make an “in your face” statement, finalists-the Ivory Coast, Angola, Ghana, Togo and Trinidad and Tobago are countries of predominantly Negro origins and the make up of these teams will hardly deviate from this.

Not to be outdone, some of the South American teams are sprinkled with black players, while the United States has in recent times selected coloured players in its line up.

Once colonial powers England, renowned for its high anti-black racist agenda and its cultured hooliganism, is increasingly including black players in its outfits, upsetting the seemingly European order. The English has no other choice as many black players are emerging, tilting the status quo.

The issue while it may seem trivial to some, cannot be overlooked, as it appears to be a concerted effort to stem the rise in the football prowess and sportsmen and women of black descent in general.

While players in the Caribbean may not be exposed to that sort of treatment, people of the region should still stand in solidarity with those who are victims of that abuse. We too can “Stand Up and Speak Up!”