Racism – the term conjures up images of black people being targeted, others calling them derogatory nicknames and remarking about their skin.
It also alludes to Asians being targeted because of their skin too, and their facial features. Perhaps it's Indians being labelled as natives of Pakistan in an ignorant attempt to upset them.
It extends to people abusing white people, calling them inappropriate nicknames and excluding them from certain ethic groups. Everybody can be racially abused, no matter what the skin colour. In football, sadly, it is no different.
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RACISM IN FOOTBALL
For decades, the problem has been present in football, which is in no way condoning it should have been accepted all those years. In fact, the officials and football bodies should have tackled it with a zero tolerance policy long ago.
The two big cases rumbling at the moment are the incidents surround Emmanuel Frimpong in Russia and the Chelsea fans from Paris.
Frimpong, formerly of Arsenal, was sent off in a recent game for Russian side FC Ufa following alleged monkey chants being aimed at him from a section of the crowd, as BBC Sport reported.
His crude gesture was in no way professional but, given the circumstances, why should he have to put up with racism in a football stadium when it wouldn't be tolerated in a restaurant, bar or other public place?
Further still, would it be tolerated if he was racist towards a fan? The answer in short is no.
Meanwhile the four Chelsea fans, who were videoed on the Paris Metro prior to a Champions League game with Paris Saint Germain, clearly shows them pushing a black man from the train and chanting that they were proud to be racist.
The Daily Mail announced this week that the four received a combination of 18-years worth of bans from attending football matches. A strong sentence, but one I can't see hurting them too much.
After only a few years, they'll be able to attend matches again and enjoy the game we all love. Maybe they'll be racist again, maybe they won’t. As a fan, I hope for the latter.
Other examples have included Yaya Toure’s abuse in Russia in a previous Champions League tie that result in a closed door match being played, as well as on the pitch with Luis Suarez's racist comments to Patrice Evra in a game at Anfield.
More has to be done
FIFA, UEFA and all countries’ football associations need to do more to help combat this issue, and the clubs need to help too by monitoring the way the fans express themselves, removing the troublemakers as and when they rear their ugly heads.
In Frimpong’s case, his club’s general director, Shamil Gazizov was quoted by BBC Sport describing the incident as ‘unfortunate.’ He went on to say: "What Frimpong did was wrong. Sometimes you even have to hold back the tears and just put up with it."
This is an unbelievable comment from a club official. Gazizov was right not to approve of the gesture, but openly accepting that racist chants should be ‘put up with’ is nothing short of ludicrous.
How can that be acceptable in today’s society? Only in sport is racism apparently so openly brushed under the carpet to keep everything ticking over.
PREVIOUS ATTEMPTS TO STOP RACISM IN FOOTBALL
The Kick It Out Campaign, which was established as a small charity in 1993, later becoming an organisation in 1997, aims to kick racism out of all sports, not just in football. Big names have endorsed it over the years from legends of the game like Eric Cantona to world leaders like Barak Obama.
Show Racism the Red Card, which used famous football names from 1996 onwards to front its campaign, was used to tackle the issue too, yet racism in football still rumbled on without any significant impact.
In 2005, Nike and Arsenal striker, Thierry Henry teamed up and launched Stand Up, Speak Up, a campaign for anti-racism in football. This movement saw hundreds of thousands of players and fans wear black and white interlinking rubber bands to show their support.
Most recently in 2012, players were requested to show unity and wear a Kick It Out Campaign t-shirt. Due to certain incidents at the time, a number of players refused to wear it during warm ups because they didn't believe the initiative was making any difference.
It is easier than it sounds to deal with racism but a strong stand has to be taken. Using the initiatives already in place as a springboard, the powers that be in football should start working harder to banish as much racism from the game as possible.
Playing matches behind closed doors, like Manchester City’s tie against CSKA Moscow last October is something that could be considered more often.
As a huge football fan, I would never want to see this occur but as much as it pains me to say it, if one spoils it for the rest and there is punishment, it's more likely to get a reaction from the rest to stand up against it.
Additionally, the clubs involved will suffer from loss of revenue, prompting them to deal more robustly with racism.
Banning these fans for a few years isn't enough. They should be handed lifetime bans as punishment or, if it is seen as too extreme for certain cases, given it is a community game, the offenders should be made to attend a number of anti-racism sessions, to learn about respect for different races in football and how to conduct themselves appropriately at games.
Only after a lengthy period should they be allowed to go through the turnstiles again.
Racism is something that should be stopped at all costs and stronger enforcement from clubs and associations in the game as well as harsher punishments seem to be the only way to do this. Racism can be kicked out of football, but only when the focus is on stopping the problem, not simply casting a dim light on it.
What do you think? Let us know how you feel about the issue of racism in football in the comments box below.
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