Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Racism & Sport - It don't matter if you're Black or White!

A good friend of mine sometime back made the observation that many African dialects have no word for racism. Yet in this time and age, we still talk about race and the colour of our skins and its becoming the 'smell' that just won't get off many a sporting disciplines across the world.
Just so that we get our footing on what we are talking about in the 2011/12 EPL season, two incidences occurred where players were alleged racially slurred by their fellow players on the pitch. One of the cases ended up with Suarez- a Uruguayan player was banned for 8 games for the club and though he did manage to get support from some of his colleagues, the club management ended up with egg on the face for mishandling such a sensitive subject. The player he abused is Frenchman Patrick Evra.
In the other case features a more complicated scenario and the players involved are from the same country. England's John Terry is said to have made a racial remark to Anton Ferdinand during an EPL clash between their two clubs. In subsequent games, EPL officials even had to cancel the ceremonial handshakes before the start of the matches to avoid players' bad blood before play.

The other reason this case is more interesting is the little matter of Rio Ferdinand's non-selection to the English squad that is preparing for Euro 2012 that starts in the twin Eastern Europe countries of Poland and Ukraine. Rio is the elder brother to Anton Ferdinand and word has it that the brothers have not been particularly amused by the English national team management of the whole affair.

Euro 2012
Talking of Euro 2012, reports have been coming from the media (coincidentally British-owned BBC through its Panorama programme aired an episode on racism and anti-Semitic violence) on football fans in the Poland and Ukraine - co-hosts of 2012. Though both countries' football officials have been quick to make denials and add that they have put measures in place to avoid such incidences.
What was of concern though was UEFA's top official's nonchalant comments about racism and what to do about it. Mr. Michel Platini an honourable player back in his time has sought to play down the claims too and says he would hope officials do something about it if it does occur. It is sad that UEFA has not suggested any other stringent measures to deal with racial slurs.

In other sports, Tiger Woods last year had a bitter fall-out with his caddie who ended up going for the race-card which was a little uncalled for...more like punching a person when they're already down...Remember the final disgrace that greeted Zinedine Zidane's departure from football, after alleged abuse from one Marco Materrazzi ? There are other dishonourable mentions that we would quote but can't for the disgrace they bring to sport.


  • First if sports associations are to be more stringent and stamp hard on believed miscreants, this would serve as a deterrent to the any intended acts. Imposition of fines, suspension of players/coaches and clubs alike are some of the suggestions. 
  • Second, quick resolution of the said case would also make it  less controversial. Look at a case like John Terry's, dragging on for over 3 months is way beyond a good threshold of punishing or mitigating against the aggrieved parties.
  • Third, if fans are found to be liable to such abuses on and off the pitch, bans from the venues, media bans for the clubs and such like measures will ensure that they think twice before mimicking monkeys and throwing banana peels on the pitch. Video evidence should be considered when 
  • Fourth, fans and players alike need to find other ways of taunting each other. Racial slurs and such like antics don't belong to this age. 
  • Fifth, players of African origin have been and will continue playing in the different sporting disciplines. What's   more, non-traditional sports such as swimming, gymnastics and others will gradually see more entrants and thus appeal to a wider world audience than is already happening. We know what happened to golf when Tiger Woods became number one and also Lewis Hamilton breaking the 'race' barrier in Formula One motorsport.

Racism kept in check

Sports are the one universal currency that unites us in many ways. Sporting events will always be graced by winners and losers and most often than not, it will not be because of the racial inclinations. The success of some of the biggest leagues in the world is largely due to the fact that they have integrated every person. Look at the NBA, American Baseball, tennis among others. Need we say anything more? ..and to paraphrase what some wise person said it sometime ago, why can't we all get along?

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