UN joins soccer leaders to rid sport of racism
The ugly side of the beautiful game emerged Thursday as the
U.N.’s top human rights official joined soccer officials and
players in calling for an end to the ”crime” of racism in
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said racist
insults and chants, Nazi salutes, petitions against players and
denial of hiring based on color or ethnicity have no place in
”Sport, at its best, is inclusive, generous-hearted, and
fundamentally multicultural, based on values such as teamwork,
loyalty, merit and self-control,” Pillay told a forum at the
U.N.’s European headquarters.
”There must be accountability for racist offenses,” she said.
”It is a crime and must be treated as such by sports
AC Milan player Kevin-Prince Boateng, former France captain
Patrick Viera and several FIFA and European soccer officials
attended the event. Several officials said they were taking action
through a FIFA anti-racism task force.
Boateng recalled how he felt ”angry and offended” when he
kicked the ball into the stands and led teammates off the field to
protest being abused by fans of Italian fourth-tier team Pro Patria
during an exhibition match in January. He credited the backing of
his teammates with sparking broader international outrage.
”Racism can be found on the streets, at work and even in
football stadiums. There were times in my life when I didn’t want
to deal with this subject. I tried to ignore racism, similar to a
headache that you know will go away if you just wait long enough,”
he said. ”But that was (a) misconception. Racism does not go away.
If we don’t confront it, it will spread.”
Vieira said racist abuse is common in stadiums.
”Racism is unacceptable. It’s a crime which has no place on the
football field or in any sporting event,” he said. ”Racist
insults are frequent, very frequent, in fact more frequent than
people think. … No part of the world is spared.”
But what to do about it? UEFA adviser William Gaillard said
sport mirrors society and racism requires collective action, but he
did not lay out specifics. Federico Addiechi, FIFA’s head of social
responsibility programs, said strong words are not enough.
”We know fines are not and may not be enough. Deducting points
from a team could send a very strong message. Relegating or
eliminating a team from a competition can send an even stronger
message,” Addiechi said.
Pillay said the abuse by the Pro Patria fans, replayed on
YouTube and on a huge overhead screen Thursday at the start of the
hour-long U.N. discussion, shows deeply unpleasant acts during
”These deplorable acts of bigotry and violence have no place in
the 21st century. They are an affront to human rights” that are
illegal under international human rights laws, she said.
She called the acts ”particularly damaging” because of the
importance of athletes and sporting events to young people.
”The time to kick the bigotry out of football is now,” Pillay