Before you decide to cancel me, just hear me out first. This blog is in no way, shape or form defending racism or the actions of bigoted idiots ruining our beautiful game.
The sad reality of modern-day football is that racism is ever present, and it has been for years. Sadly, until the major continental governing bodies, as well as head of world football, FIFA, implement more drastic and severe punishments for offenders, racism will be here to stay.
Just recently, the ugly scenes during England’s away thrashing of Hungary at the Puskas Arena has been viewed by millions around the world, however, it could have been avoided. With some context, Hungary hosted England at a packed Puskas Arena in Budapest on Thursday 2nd September in a World Cup qualifying match, but the 4-0 result to England has been marred by the vile abuse some English players were exposed to. Two English players in particular, Manchester City attacker Raheem Sterling and Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham, were targeted with ‘monkey chants’ by some Hungarian supporters. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be an isolated incident made by supporters of the Hungarian national team this year, with separate incidents present in all three games hosted at the Puskas Arena during the Euro 2020 competition over the summer.
The racist and homophobic chants that came from the Budapest crowd during the competition forced the hand of the competition’s governing body, UEFA, to implement a 3-match ‘behind-closed-doors’ ban on the Hungarian national team during any UEFA sanctioned competitions. This lax response by UEFA is just the latest issue that the organisation has come under fire for, giving cause for even more scrutiny by the players and public alike. Some 60,000 fans packed into the stadium for the game, and as World Cup Qualifiers are a FIFA run competition, the stadium ban was not in effect. The continued lack of unity between the world’s footballing authorities has come under fire with UEFA trying to shift blame on the topic by announcing that regulations prevented them from asking that Hungary’s punishment be brought forward with FIFA, as they have the power to enforce the stadium ban. FIFA’s response confirmed that the ban was only to be implemented for matches administered by UEFA, however, they believe that the European governing body could have made an approach to bring the ban forward.
Well there you go, two governing bodies in world football playing the blame game on each other, like bickering children. This event happened over a week ago, and FIFA have yet to sanction the Hungarian FA, despite having promised to do so.
This, however, isn’t the only incident involving racism that the English national team has had to endure in the last few months, with London’s Wembley Stadium hosting the European Cup Final between home heroes England, and the eventual champions Italy. The game ultimately ended in a penalty shootout, with the final three English players all failing to score from the spot. The distinct relationship between Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka, other than their English nationality, is their colour of skin. Marcus and Jadon both have lineage back to the Caribbean, while Bukayo is of Nigerian descent. Ridiculously enough, all three players were unfortunately subject to vile and abusive messages on social media after the match. The striking difference between these two disturbing events is that social media giants, including Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter have taken action, working alongside authorities to hold the individuals responsible accountable of their actions. As of 7th September, more than 30 offenders have had their social media accounts permanently banned, as well as facing possible permanent bans from ever attending football matches within England.
Sadly, these two incidents are merely the tip of the iceberg that is racism in football. I could continue to list all of the occurrences of racism in the last 2 years alone, and drag this blog on for another week but I won’t. What I will do is say that, ‘Racism has no place in our lives, and definitely no place in our beautiful game’. It is not just up to the governing bodies of sport, or the heads of social media, but we the fans must also take steps forward to stamp the problem out. United, we stand together.