By Tony Attwood
We regularly cover issues of racism and violence within football. See for example “Racist abuse, physical violence” in August this year. Back in 2018 we were asking “Should clubs be responsible for the behaviour of their fans inside and outside the ground?”
We also know that there was a lot of bother before the Uefa final. We know that because there has been some publicity about the affair where lots of supporters stormed the building.
And we know that the FA was not responsible. We know that because none of the media is demanding that the FA be held to account in any way. No one is suggesting any punishment for their total lack of preparedness.
What we don’t know (unless we can be bothered to look at European football news, as published in Europe) is that there is trouble brewing in Europe as well. And we don’t know because by and large the English media won’t report it. And they won’t report it, because in Europe the people who arrange football matches are starting to be blamed – and that we don’t ever accept in England.
For example last weekend, the match between Standard Liege and Charleroi was stopped as hooded supporters invaded the pitch after smoke bombs were thrown onto the pitch in what the Belgian Federation described as “scenes of war.” Immediately the visiting fans were banned. Prior to this OGC Nice ultras blocked the team bus from departing ahead of the game because they were unhappy with the performance of their manager Patrick Vieira.
But that is not all. Violent incidents occurred on Sunday during the Belgian match between Beerschot-Antwerp and Standard Liege-Charleroi. The Belgian FA said, “Hooded men entered the field. These are scenes of war and … These are mind-boggling events during which the behaviour of some fans has put the safety of many at risk.”
In the Antwerp derby an Antwerp fan crossed the pitch to throw a smoke bomb into a stand occupied by local fans. He has been charged with attempted homicide and arson. As a result from next weekend until the end of the year, visiting fans will not be allowed to travel to support their team.
Meanwhile Mory Diaw, the goalkeeper of Lausanne-Sport, received a racist message on social networks from a Basel “fan” after the match on Sunday. This is the second time in two weeks that he is a victim of such an act.
The player said that he received a message on Instagram calling him a monkey. He also received racist insults after a match in St. Gallen at the end of November.
For many English people, I suspect, and certainly, for myself, Switzerland doesn’t seem to have a racism problem. But having had two racist incidents in a short period, there is a growing sense of unease, not least because the abused player said, “I called the league… after the first message and I did not receive an answer. By remaining silent, by not defending the players, the league takes the side of the racists.”
When asked if he felt that the League’s silence makes the league complicit in racism the player quite clearly “yes”. And he noted his deep regret at what is happening saying, “Switzerland gave me a second chance. When I arrived in Lausanne, I was in a very difficult time in my career. It’s a pity that this second chance is spoiled by idiots.”
It turned out in the end that the perpetrator was a 13 year old child.
Mory Diaw has said that the players are considering taking action including strike action saying, “It would be a strong way to make a statement. These racist acts must not happen again in 2022.”
Both racist abuse and storming a stadium (as happened at the Uefa final) involve appalling and utterly unacceptable behaviour by people who consider themselves to be football fans, and both highlight an area in which those responsible for organising matches appear not to have the slightest idea how to stop the crimes.
This is why we do need a body to oversee football. Of course, I can’t speak for other countries but I can write about England and here were saw appalling racism against Saka after the Uefa final and we saw how utterly incompetent the FA were in relation to the Wembley game.
However, the media also seem to be congenitally incapable of speaking out against those who fail to deal with the issue. There’s lots of mumbling about how terrible such things are, but no coherent plans, no demands for immediate change – not least of the body running football in England – the Football Association.
Clubs are in charge of their grounds, football associations are in charge overall. That ought to mean something. But because no one is taking action, these situations are just being allowed to rumble on.
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