OPINION: Fifa, Uefa need to do more to eradicate racism in football

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Referee (Getty Images)
Referee (Getty Images)

The modern game of football has radically changed and evolved over the last decade.

We have seen managerial stalwarts like Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger (unofficially) retire, while soccer greats such as Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard swiftly made the move to the technical area after hanging up their boots.

Technology has been at the forefront of the change, with goal-line technology doing a superb job in giving players, coaches and fans clarity on whether the soccer ball has crossed the goal-line.

VAR (video assistant referee) has its issues, but with everything new and fresh, amendments will eventually take place that I hope improves the game for the better despite worldwide disagreements on the much-used technology.

However, the one thing that I am grateful for is that technology has raised awareness around racism - and not just in football.

Video footage and online interaction have given people evidence that racism - and other forms of discrimination - still exist in the game.

Racism is an ongoing ill in the world, people of colour - from all walks of life - are discriminated against daily.

And despite the many changes happening in soccer, the issue around racism remains a huge concern.

Are Fifa and Uefa doing enough to eradicate racism in football?

In July last year, Fifa amended its Disciplinary Code with the biggest change allowing referees to bring an end to a game if there is persistent racism in the stands under a three-step protocol:

- If the referee detects racism in the stands, it will ask the PA announcer to issue a warning

- If the racist actions persist, the referee can halt the match until it ends

- If the racist activity fails to stop, the referee can end the match

In a Portuguese topflight match last month, FC Porto striker Moussa Marega was subject to racist abuse from the Vitoria de Guimaraes fans in the stands.

The video made the rounds on social media and many were in disbelief by what they saw.

Despite the obvious racist chants directed towards the player, what was alarming is that none of the above-mentioned protocols were considered by the referee.

Marega, who was in his own right to be upset, walked off the pitch but before he could be taken off via substitution, his team-mates (the majority of them white) were attempting to stop him from walking off.

It was a disturbing sight.

If referees are not using the disciplinary code to alleviate such disgraceful behaviour what else needs to be done?

This has certainly not been the first case, and sadly, likely won't be the last.

Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin says the European governing body will amend its disciplinary code following several racism incidents in recent months.

"Things need to change," he said at the Uefa Congress in Amsterdam on Tuesday.

"We must begin by applying the rules we already have. That would be a good starting point. That means applying the three-step procedure. We must not be afraid to do so. Everywhere. No exceptions."

Referees, players, coaches and fans need to take more accountability when it comes to these horrific acts - by taking action and bring the culprits forward. And if that were to happen, it would make Fifa and Uefa's job a bit easier.

I could sit here and write a lengthy list of racist incidents that have been recorded and occurred in stadiums around the world for the past decade - and some punishments were handed out to fans and clubs - but those chastisements were deemed to be too soft for appropriate punishment.

With Uefa's congress done and dusted, Fifa is set to hold its own yearly assembly in May.

The top brass at FIFA are aware that all eyes are on them and it remains to be seen whether further adjustments will be made to the disciplinary codes.

More needs to be done to fight racism in football!

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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