Fikile Mbalula: Fire this racist

2014-11-09 18:00

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Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula and SA Football Association (Safa) president Danny Jordaan have joined calls for the dismissal of Russian manager Igor Gamula, who coaches FC Rostov, the club where South African defender Siyanda Xulu plays.

Jordaan this week wrote to Fifa president Sepp Blatter, urging the world football governing body to impose serious sanctions against the FC Rostov coach after his racist remarks last week.

Gamula said his club had enough of “the things”, referring to black players in the team, when he was asked if Rostov would sign Cameroon defender Benoît Angbwa.

“We have enough dark-skinned players, we’ve got six of the things,” he was quoted as saying.

The derogatory comments prompted players, including Xulu, to boycott the club’s training session. The coach later apologised, saying it was a joke.

In the letter to Blatter, Jordaan wrote: “I write to you because our expectation is that any host country of a Fifa World Cup, as Russia would be in 2018, must be a host for any nation or person regardless of skin colour, and welcome them respectively.

“This kind of conduct must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. The fact that it is recurring requires steps involving serious sanction.”

Jordaan, who boycotted the finals of the Euro 2012 championships to protest against the racism in Ukraine, where the tournament was co-hosted, said he was awaiting Blatter’s response.

The letter continued: “It is not the first time that racist remarks have been made by a Russian football sport official. It seems to me that Africans are the main target of racism. President Blatter, your track record against racism speaks for itself. You were [Fifa’s general secretary] when Fifa expelled South Africa for its racist apartheid policies.”

Mbalula said an apology alone was not enough, pointing to how the NBA in the US forced Donald Sterling to sell the Los Angeles Clippers and banned him for life over racism.

“Sports bodies must make an example. There must be no philosophical answer to what he said. He must be dismissed from his job, period. You can’t call people ‘things’. This is beyond abuse, and if we don’t send strong messages to racists in sport, we will not be able to contain this.

“They must understand the consequences are dire and Fifa must do something because [Gamula’s] federation has not done anything,” said Mbalula.

Even Tokyo Sexwale, Fifa’s antiracism adviser and joint chairperson of the international organisation Global Watch: Say No To Racism-Discrimination in all Sport, which fights the scourge, weighed in on the matter by challenging Russian authorities to take a stand against racism.

The politician and businessman warned that the many incidents of racism reported by the 2018 World Cup hosts could trigger black players to boycott the global football spectacle.

He urged Russia President Vladimir Putin to demand tougher action against racism in football.

Gamula’s remarks came barely a week after Russian Tennis Federation president Shamil Tarpischev described the Williams sisters – Serena and Venus – as the “Williams brothers” on state television.

The Women’s Tennis Association took swift action against him. Tarpischev was fined $25?000 (R281?620) and was disqualified from working in an organisational capacity for a year.

History of abuse: Racist incidents

»?Last year, Yaya Touré was the subject of racist abuse at Russia’s CSKA Moscow. The club was forced to play Champions League games behind closed doors.

This week, Touré was reportedly subjected to a string of abusive and racist messages within hours of reactivating his Twitter account and the British charity organisation Kick It Out brought the abuse to the attention of the British police, who have been called in to investigate the incident.

»?In September, Dynamo Moscow defender Christopher Samba was charged by the Russian football association after reacting to racial abuse. Samba refused to return to the match after the abuse, but faced a charge for an “unpleasant gesture”.

»?Last month, Uefa punished president of the Italian FA Carlo Tavecchio, who drew ire by referring to black players “eating bananas” in July.

»?In January 2013, Ghana star Kevin-Prince Boateng was abused during AC Milan’s friendly against Pro Patria.

The midfielder kicked the ball in the direction of the culprits before removing his shirt and walking off the pitch.

His team-mates followed suit, and the game was abandoned.

»?Monkey chants were directed at former AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli in 2012 and 2013.

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