Fifa will send specific anti-discrimination officers to World Cup qualifying matches as part of its bid to eradicate racism from football terraces.
Via reports compiled by these officers within 24 hours of a match, Fifa will decide whether to impose fines, ban teams from competitions or make them play behind closed doors.
But Russia, where the problem is considered at its worst, will not have its matches monitored, because as hosts of the 2018 tournament it will not be playing any qualifying matches. Officers will be present at the Confederations Cup, which takes place in the country in 2017.
Manchester City’s Yaya Toure, who is a member of Fifa’s racism Task Force, and who was vilified by the CKSA Moscow crowd earlier this season, was at the launch of the initiative at Wembley Stadium. He called on Fifa to hand out harsher penalties for racist abuse.
“They close part of the stadium or [issue a] fine and paying £20,000 is not enough for me,” he said. “We need to do more. When you hear it, it hurts and breaks you. It is not easy to live there. When you go home and you speak with friends and a guy from your family calls you and says, ‘We heard on television that you were abused and why do you have to deal that?’
“When you live that on the field, what do you do? Sometimes it is better to react in a good way. Some want the referee to look. Some get angry. It is a difficult situation [and] for me we need to take big sanctions.”
Piara Powar, the Italian head of Fifa’s anti-racism task-force, Fare said: "There is more likely to be racism when England play, when the French team play, or when Germany play.”
This is a surprising claim, given English football’s success in stamping out the pernicious racist abuse from the stands that was so commonplace in the 1980s. In 2013, AC Milan’s Kevin Constant and Kevin Prince-Boateng both walked off the pitch in separate matches against lower league Italian opposition in the wake of racist chanting from the terraces. And Barcelona’s Dani Alves last year ate a banana that had been thrown at him by a fan, and incident that led to the fan in question being banned but Villareal receiving only a 10,000EUR (£8,900) fine.
FIFA president Joseph Blatter said: "I'm very happy to see this program taking shape and being rolled out first for the 2018 qualifiers. The new monitoring system is a very concrete measure in order to ensure that football sends a clear message for diversity and against any form of discrimination."
He has made the fight against racism his most important concern in recent years while Fifa President. He is standing for re-election at the end of this month, and will almost certainly win a fifth term.
When British journalists exposed possible corruption in Qatar’s bid for the 2022 World Cup, including payments to African and Caribbean football executives, President Blatter accused the journalists in question of “racism”, which was met with widespread derision.
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