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Racism still blights the beautiful game - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Manchester City's Yaya Toure, centre, pointing towards fans speaks to the referee Ovidiu Hategan, unseen, CSKA's Kirill Nababkin, left, and Musa, back to camera, during the Champions League group D soccer match between CSKA Moscow and Manchester City, at Arena Khimki stadium outside Moscow, Russia, on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Denis Tyrin)

Manchester City’s Yaya Toure, centre, pointing towards fans speaks to the referee Ovidiu Hategan, unseen, CSKA’s Kirill Nababkin, left, and Musa, back to camera, during the Champions League group D soccer match between CSKA Moscow and Manchester City, at Arena Khimki stadium outside Moscow, Russia, on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Denis Tyrin)

London, Asharq Al-Awsat—A seven-strong panel from UEFA’s disciplinary board met on October 30 to discuss the racism charge against CSKA Moscow and decided to issue the Russian club with a partial stadium ban for its next Champions League home game against Bayern Munich.

CSKA Moscow were charged by UEFA with “racist behavior of their fans” after Manchester City’s Yaya Touré was the victim of nonsensical monkey chanting in a Champions League group stage game against the Russians on October 23.

In such a high-profile competition as the Champions League, where City picked up a 2–1 win at the Khimki Arena in Moscow, the match was marred by a section of home supporters directing racial abuse towards Touré, who reported the incident to referee Ovidiu Haţegan.

The unsavory incident provoked several elite people to speak out on the matter, including Prince William. The Duke of Cambridge spoke at a gala dinner marking the 150th anniversary of the Football Association (FA), saying: “Sadly, there is more work to be done to stop racism in football.”

“It is heartening to see how seriously the FA takes stamping the blight of racism and discrimination out of football,” added Prince William.

Also speaking at the FA’s gala dinner was FIFA president Sepp Blatter, who promised to take harsher sanctions against racism in football. According to Blatter, the FIFA congress decided it is “nonsense” to issue clubs with fines because clubs can “always find money” and the same goes for matches being played behind closed doors, because “it is against the spirit of the game.”

Blatter reiterated the need for more hard-hitting punishments on clubs if they are found guilty of racism and to “do something better,” by saying they will decide on much tougher penalties.

“We need to eliminate teams from a competition or deduct points. Only by such decisions is it possible to go against racism and discrimination. If we don’t do that it will go on and go on. We have to stop it, we need the courage to do it,” said Blatter.

Executive director of Football Against Racism in Europe, Piara Power, was also at the FA’s 150th anniversary event and advised that a potential boycott by black players of the 2018 World Cup in Russia could lead to football’s most prestigious competition being postponed.

“I can understand Yaya Touré’s sense that something needs to be done urgently,” said Power.

There has been an unsettling number of racism cases throughout Europe in the past year alone, with perhaps the most significant incident occurring in Italy—a country notorious for racial abuse in football. Kevin-Prince Boateng, then of AC Milan, became the first football player to cause a match to be abandoned and lead his team off the pitch due to racial abuse from fans.

Boateng made a huge statement by picking up the ball when he had possession and kicking it angrily towards home supporters of Pro Patria who were directing racial abuse towards him. Milan’s friendly against the Italian minnows in Busto Arsizio was subsequently abandoned when Boateng’s fellow teammates followed him off the pitch.

It was recently claimed by FC Shalke 04’s chief financial officer Peter Peters that Boateng was driven away from Italy because of the racism involved in the game. Boateng spent three years with Milan before deciding to join German side Shalke 04 in August.

In the Barclays Premier League, Tottenham Hotspur fans have be warned that they face arrest if they persist in chanting “Yid Army.” Tottenham Hotspur, otherwise known as the Spurs, has a strong Jewish following and, over the years, its fans have been the target of anti-Semitic abuse from opposition supporters. It was in an act of defiance that Spurs fans started to use the “Yid” chant about their team, and the first arrest of a Spurs follower chanting “Yid Army” in support of his own team was made in October.

As things stand in the footballing world, there is still a long way to go to eradicate racism completely from the game. However, after recent developments following the Touré saga, the future is likely to hold more severe punishments for clubs and fans in the crackdown on racism.