By Tony Attwood
There is something so utterly obnoxious about Fifa’s president Sepp Blatter that it is hard to put into words, without utilising the language of the street. And of course the obnoxiousness of the man spreads outwards. Every organisation that associates itself with Fifa becomes part of the appalling approach to life the man embodies.
When Milan players took the courageous and (as far as I am concerned) correct step to walk off the pitch after Kevin-Prince Boateng’s was repeatedly abused by opposition supporters, we knew it would only be a matter of time before the widely praised decision by the players was criticised by Blatter.
Now he has done what we expected. He has warned clubs they risk forfeiting matches if there is a repeat.
And to this response, the simple question must be asked: is there anything more important than football? To the civilised person the answer must always be yes there are a lot of things more important than football. Defeating racism and homophobia come fairly high on any list I would put together.
Boateng’s crime was to leave the pitch, followed by his team-mates during a friendly at Pro Patria. The player has said he would do the same again.
What we really need at this time is not Blatter, whose influence can be seen when fines for marketing “offences” far exceed fines for racist crimes, but more men like Boateng and his colleagues.
Trying to cover his own expansive back, Blatter said football should take a “zero-tolerance approach” to racism but nevertheless clubs must forfeit games if their players walk off, whatever the reason.
So now, even if it were not clear, that is Fifa thinking, and because the FA is part of Fifa, it must become FA thinking. Because Uefa is part of Fifa it will be their thinking, and through that the clubs must follow. Every part of football that wasn’t already in the gutter is now dragged there.
Here’s some more from Blatter. “I don’t think you can run away, because then the team should have to forfeit the match…. The only solution is to be very harsh with the sanctions – and the sanctions must be a deduction of points or something similar.” Which is exactly what Fifa and Uefa has not done in world cup and club cup matches.
Here is more, and it gets worse. “This action is an example that the spectators must behave well because, as I understand it, the player ran away and the others went with him.”
Boateng replied, “So many people in Fifa can do something and they should wake up and do it. They should not tolerate it. They should ban people forever from the stadiums. That’s the first thing you can do.” Indeed I agree.
Meanwhile the Italian Football Federation is conducting an investigation into the incident, but the fact is that racism is widespread in some countries, and Fifa as an international agency could do something about it by, at the very least, forcing countries and teams whose supporters or players behave in a racist manner to play the next ten competitive games that are due to be at home, away from home. It is a simple solution.
Personally I would have that rule everywhere – and I would include incidents of homophobia too.
But the chances of getting anything done by Blatter and his team is lower than zero. Football is sullied by this man, day after day, year after year, but the fact that countries like England continue to belong to the organisation he runs, gives him endless support, and he knows it. No one stands up to Blatter, apart from a moderate number of journalists and bloggers.
In simple terms consorting with racists makes one a racist, and that is what my country has done and is doing.
- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football – Arsenal’s early years
- Making the Arsenal – how the modern Arsenal was born in 1910
- The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal FC: crowd behaviour at the early matches