Perhaps it has come to the point when UEFA’s systematic failure to address the issue of racism should no longer being considered a surprise, for European football’s governing body clearly has other priorities.
Whether it’s a 40-team World Cup or spreading the European Championship across the continent, Michel Platini approaches the fight against racism in football like a schoolkid approaches his homework.
In both cases the attitude is “I’ll do it later”. That’s if they will do it at all.
We shouldn’t be too harsh on Platini either, for he’s simply following into the path of what is effectively his manager. And when your manager is Sepp Blatter, everything is coated in hopelessness.
UEFA’s decision to punish the racist chants aimed at Yaya Toure by forcing CSKA Moscow to play their next Champions League fixture in a partly closed stadium would be hilarious, if racism wasn’t such a serious issue.
While the Russian team strongly denies their fans were culpable of any wrongdoings, UEFA has sacked one of its officials, thus admitting the anti-racism strategy was not properly enforced, but declined to severely punish CSKA.
The paradox is grotesque even by UEFA’s standards.
Here we have a shoplifter – the fans – caught on CCTV – Romanian referee Ovidiu Hategan informed the fourth official that Toure had been racially abused and that a public announcement should be directed at the fans – and yet UEFA have decided to sack the electrician who installed the camera – the UEFA official – rather than convict the shoplifter.
The fact itself that CSKA have vehemently denied any allegation of racism is scandalous enough, considering that UEFA have in fact found them guilty of the offence, but European football governing body’s decision to force the Russian club to play behind closed doors only in case of a second offence is beyond ludicrous.
UEFA have warned CSKA that “the fight against racist conduct has been stepped up a level resulting in more severe sanctions.”
How so? By admitting that they have indeed breached the rules and allow them to have a second bite of the cherry before serious measures are taken or by allowing CSKA to protest their innocence for an offence they’ve already been convicted for?
Playing football behind closed doors is hardly a suitable punishment for the disturbed and vile minds that populate terraces in some parts of Europe, as it arguably harms the players more than the fans, but playing in a half closed stadium is the equivalent of condemning a bank robber to skipping his Sunday roast for a month.
No matter which angle one wants to look at it from, the punishment isn’t measured to the offence nor does it make any sense at all.
Granted, the fight against racism in football shouldn’t become a crusade against Russian teams, for racist chants and monkey noises aren’t monopolised by Eastern European clubs.
Racism is alive and kicking in Spain, Italy and even in multicultural England, where seven Charlton fans were yesterday convicted of chanting offensive songs relating to the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence in 1993, as they returned from a cup tie at Fulham in 2012.
T-shirts and half-closed stadiums can be commendable additional measures but UEFA’s bland punishment line highlighted yet again the lack of cohesion in the fight against racism.