What is to be done if there are racial or homophobic chants or banners being displayed against certain players during a game?
I’ve been asked this question many times and I’m still not sure of the answer.
There is nothing in the Fifa laws of the game about it, however, Fifa issued a directive that empowers referees to stop games whenever any form of abuse occurs.
And it’s the duty of the match officials to protect players and their coaches and staff from physical abuse or attack.
It is paramount to ensure their safety in storms and if there is lightning, and if the crowd is unruly.
Recently, a referee made a stand when he spotted what appeared to be two offensive banners in the crowd. It happened in a French Ligue 1 match between Nice and Marseille.
One sign was held up from an end of the ground occupied by Nice supporters. The referee, Clément Turpin, an experienced French and Fifa official, stopped the game and took the players off the field.
French football site Get French Football News tweeted: “Remarkable – Clément Turpin has suspended tonight’s OGC Nice v Marseille game 25 minutes in because of a banner viewed as homophobic by officials.”
It is alleged that one of the banners might have been directed at one of the UK’s richest men, Sir Jim Radcliffe, who recently completed a €91 million (R1.5 billion) takeover of a football club in Nice. One wonders why Nice supporters would target this man who many see as a saviour of the club by bringing in such a large injection of funds.
One sign made reference to the word ‘pédale’ which is ‘pedal’. It is a derogatory term in French for a gay person.
It’s not the first game in France to be halted because of homophobia this season.
The president of the French FA, Nathalie Boy de la Tour, came under fire earlier this year for saying homophobic chants were part of the culture of the sport.
She said: “What you hear in a stadium, you won’t hear outside when you go shopping. In the stadium, it’s not acceptable as such, but it’s part of the folklore.”
I find that attitude quite extraordinary and contradictory coming from a woman of such esteem and with such authority.
Instead of condemning it outright, she appeared, in my opinion, to be condoning it.
One would have thought that she could have given better leadership in such circumstances.
The French gender equality minister, Marlène Schiappa, tweeted: “Congratulations to referee Clément Turpin, whose commitment to respect football is known to have interrupted the match #OGCNOM #NiceOM, [because], and despite several withdrawal requests, a homophobic banner dirtied the stands. Football is a matter of passion not hate.”
Recently, two Manchester United players, Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford, were abused on social media because of successive missed penalties for their team.
And it’s not only in France where the refs took decisive action.
Brazilian referee Anderson Daronco was widely praised for his actions after he stopped a match because of similar chants by fans.
It was a first division game between Vasco da Gama and São Paulo. The referee made his way over to the Vasco team manager, Vanderlei Luxemburgo, and asked him to stop the fans from chanting abuse.
It appeared to work, but, sadly, there are those who are intent on continuing this disgusting behaviour. The problem is finding a lasting solution.
Please feel free to comment or ask questions.