Trouble erupts over racist behaviour but it’s not the Russians at fault

by Keir Radnedge, AIPS Football Commission Chairman

MOSCOW, June 21, 2018 – Racism has returned to the forefront among World Cup themes but unconnected with all the fears expressed ahead of the tournament about the behaviour towards visiting fans and players of local Russian supporters.

Instead, with no reported problems from Russian fans both inside and outside the stadia, it was Mexico, Serbia and a mixed assortment of English supporters in the line of fire.

First, world football’s governing body FIFA fined the Mexican federation a $10,400 fine for “discriminatory and insulting chants” during the team’s 1-0 win over holders Germany.

Fans had directed the notorious ‘puto’ chant at Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.

Mexico striker Javier Hernandez has appealed via his Instagram account to his country’s fans to end the practice. He wrote: “To all Mexican fans in the stadiums, don’t shout ‘pu–‘. Let’s not risk another sanction.”

In effect the fine was a mere slap on the wrist considering the millions which Mexico will generate from appearing at the finals and considering the long history of the problem.

The Mexicans were punished 12 times for anti-gay slurs during the World Cup qualifying campaign, receiving warnings for the first two offences and fines for 10 more.

The chant was also comnonly heard at Mexican matches at the 2014 finals in Brazil when FIFA was unprepared to act. Other Latin American national associations, including those of Argentina and Chile, have been fined for similar chants.

FIFA also fined the Serbian federation a similar $10,000 “for the display of an offensive and political banner by Serbian fans during the match played between Serbia and Costa Rica.”

Elsewhere, British police are working with the Football Association to investigate a video that has surfaced online apparently showing England fans at the World Cup in Russia performing Nazi salutes.

The video shows two fans performing a Nazi salute and singing an anti-semitic chant about Tottenham Hotspur while in a bar in Volgograd at the weekend.

An FA spokesperson said: “We strongly condemn the actions of the people in this video. We are working with the relevant authorities, including the UK police investigations team, who are making inquiries to identify the individuals involved and take appropriate action.

“The disgraceful conduct of the individuals in this video does not represent the values of the majority of English football fans supporting the team in Russia.”

Back in the UK the businessman and television personality Lord Alan Sugar apologised – belatedly – for posting a tweet about the Senegal World Cup squad that compared the players to people selling sunglasses and handbags on beaches.

Sugar published a tweet with a manipulated picture of the team appearing to be selling counterfeit goods. He captioned it: “I recognise some of these guys from the beach in Marbella. Multitasking, resourceful chaps.”

After instant criticism of the tweet as racist, Sugar responded: “Why not it is meant to be funny … for god sake” and “I cant see what I have to apologise for … you are OTT … its a bloody joke.”

Sugar subsequently deleted the image and his attempted justifications, saying: “I misjudged me [sic] earlier tweet. It was in no way intended to cause offence, and clearly my attempt at humour has backfired. I have deleted the tweet and am very sorry.”

Sugar is the high-profile presenter of the BBC’s The Apprentice show. The corporation has been under pressure over diversity issues.

Piara Powar, executive director of the FARE anti-racism network, said in a statement: “Alan Sugar has deliberately and with racist intent sought to demean a World Cup football team in the middle of a global celebration that Africans have as much a right to be a part of as any other continent. And as if words were not damaging enough he has illustrated the point with a graphic.

“This ignorance and stereotyping of a whole race, a continent of over 1.3bn people, is disgraceful. It is particularly damaging coming from a prominent public figure, a member of the House of Lords. It shows the attitudes that people continue to hold and how they see football as the space through which to air them.”

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