The poison of racism has interfered with the beautiful game on many occasions.
There is no room for racism in football or in any space outside of football. However, the tribalism of football supporters sometimes goes to such an extent where criticism crosses the line and ventures into hateful commentary where players are targeted for the colour of their skin or lineage, which is unacceptable.
Whether it is ignorance or downright hateful ideologies at work, more efforts need to be made by authorities to weed out the poison that is racism from football and stricter punishments need to be handed to clubs and their fans who fail to act in a civil manner.
The most recent example of a racist incident where a ‘match official’ referred to a member of Istanbul Basekshehir’s coaching staff by the colour of their skin just goes to show that awareness needs to be spread out to not just the fans, but at all levels of the game, be it officials, members of the board or even the media.
Following are the five unfortunate incidents where racist remarks caused the interruption in football matches, leading to complete or partial suspension of the games.
2013: AC Milan vs AS Roma
Back in 2013, during an Italian Serie A game between AC Milan and AS Roma, there was an instance of racist chants being directed towards Mario Balotelli. The match was being played at San Siro where the racist chants came from a section of the Roma supporters. The Italian striker was clearly affected by the jeers.
This prompted the Roma skipper, Franceso Totti to plead with his fans to stop the racist abuse. The game was suspended for a few minutes where the skipper continued to request the fans to curb the racist remarks. An announcement was made, voicing Totti’s concerns more effectively before the play resumed.
2013: AC Milan vs Pro Patria
Italy is infamous for racist incidents and unfortunately, the authorities have taken little to no steps in curbing this menace. In early 2013, during an exhibition game between AC Milan and Pro Patria, Kevin Prince-Boateng of Milan was at the receiving end of vile racist abuse from the section of supporters of the opposition.
The player of Ghanaian descent reacted by kicking the ball towards this set of supporters and followed by walking off the field along with his teammates. Boateng took to Twitter and said, “Shame that these things still happen.”
2014: San Marcos de Arica vs Deportes Iquique
Racism in football is not only prevalent in Europe. Traces of racism can also be witnessed in different continents. Back in 2014, Chilean fans targeted San Marcos de Arica’s striker, Emilio Renteria with racist chants.
His team was leading by a goal thanks to Renteria’s early strike, however, the referee Julio Bascunan suspended the game around the 70th-minute mark due to the ongoing racist chants by Deportes Iquique supporters. The game was also halted on several occasions when Renteria had scored, and the Venezuelan forward was visibly affected by the hateful chanting.
2019: England vs Bulgaria
During the Euro 2020 qualifier game which ended in a 6-0 victory over Bulgaria in 2019, England’s several players were at the receiving end of racist chants by Bulgarian supporters on various occasions. The talk of possible racist abuse had begun even before the fixture. The racist chants were accompanied by offensive salutes which led to the game being temporarily suspended on two occasions.
The aftermath of this incident led to the resignation of Bulgarian football union head, Borislav Mihaylov. Krasimir Balakov, the Bulgarian national team manager also resigned from his post after earlier denying any racist chants from their set of supporters. UEFA would later go on to announce that the Bulgarian FA would be fined €75,000 and forced to play two matches behind closed doors.
2020: Paris Saint-Germain vs Istanbul Basaksehir
The most recent incident of racial abuse being meted out came from an unlikely source. During PSG and Istanbul’s UEFA Champions League group stage game in France, the fourth official allegedly referred to a staff member in the Turkish club’s camp by the colour of their skin.
The racist remark was immediately noticed by the camp and enraged the players from both the clubs. As a result, both PSG and Istanbul Baseksehir’s players walked off the pitch as a sign of protest. The officials declared the game to be suspended and would be rescheduled by the UEFA authorities with a complete set of new officials.