Teams should be allowed to walk off the pitch to curb racism as fines are not enough

Milan walked off a friendly against Pro Patria when Boateng was abused racially and Aditya Bajaj argues as to why teams should be allowed to do so to tackle racism.
 Aditya Bajaj
 Comment l Fight against Racism
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Roberto Carlos was abused racially during a pre-game ritual with Anzhi Makhachkala back in March 2011, when a Zenit St.Petersburg fan offered the former Real Madrid full back a banana with the clear intent of abusing the legend for his colour.

Expectedly, Zenit were handed out a fine of 10,000 dollars but it was barely a slap on the wrist as three months later in June, the World Cup winner was again abused, only this time the fruit was directed towards him on the field by fan belonging to another Russian club Krylya Sovetov.

In another incident, Nigerian Emmanuel Emenike was fined 17,000 dollars for making offensive gesture at the fans when subjected to racial abuse which was almost six times of what Zenit paid the governing body when their fans got involved in yet another incident of racial chanting.

Back in England, Exodus Geohaghon – a Port Vale FC player that plays in Football League two – was banned from training with his team mates when he entered into an argument with his own fans who had abused him racially during a 3-0 defeat at Accrington while the investigation against the perpetrators mellowed down after he left the club for Barnet.

Amusing isn’t it?

First you are victimized for something that’s not your fault at all and in fact are proud of for what is God-given and then treated unfairly by the authorities who give a free hand to the accused by handing them a paltry fine which is obviously taken care of.

 Kevin Prince-Boateng was subjected to racism in a friendly against Pro Patria

On January 3, 2013 when Kevin Prince Boateng was abused repeatedly by the Pro Patria fans in the stands, the dynamic Milan midfielder decided to take matters into his own hands when he halted play, lifted the ball and kicked it towards the section of crowd guilty of the heinous act and walked off the field. What followed can only be praised, and in fact should act as a precedent for everyone involved with cleansing the beautiful game from the fans to the players and most importantly the authorities responsible for curbing an act that has only shamed the most widely followed game on Earth.

Rossoneri captain, Massimo Ambrosini, hurt by the embarrassment caused to his team-mate led his team back to the dressing room deciding against continuing playing before fans who should have been grateful for the chance to watch the stars from one of the biggest clubs in the country play at their home ground. However, not many are aware of the fact the Pro-Patria – a club that plies its trade in Italy’s fourth division – has accumulated no less than 10,000 Euros in fines over the past two seasons for incidents related to racism.

So the big question that should be asked of the authorities is if these paltry fines are really enough to eradicate racism and other related crimes so heavily prevalent even today?

First of all, these fines are taken care of by the club itself so the accused are not affected directly. Yes, if he/she is identified then an individual ban may be imposed but such a punishment does not affect the others who might have gotten away.

Russian, Czech and Spanish were allegedly involved in racist chants and banners during the just concluded European championships in Poland and Ukraine last summer, despite repeated fines imposed on their clubs for such incidents in the past which obviously makes it clear that whaT's being done is simply not enough.

"Teammates tend to lower their eyes and look elsewhere, underestimating the suffering of the players of colour who are targeted. That's why I applaud the sensibility of a great player like (Milan captain) Massimo Ambrosini. He took responsibility which gives a huge amount of help to the fight against racism."
        Former French International Lilian Thuram has come out strongly in support of Milan's actions

What happened in Lombardy with the Milan players is the latest example of how fines are hardly a tough deterrent for the handful of fans bound to abuse their opponents (in some cases their own) as they are repeated nevertheless once the temperature boils down.

When Milan walked off the field, the match was abandoned and the majority of Pro Patria fans who had come there to only catch a glimpse of the stars from the first division paid for what a few ‘idiots’ thought was ‘okay’.

Once again, the club may get fined but you suspect if such a walk off would have been conducted in an ‘official’ match and not a friendly, the Rossoneri would have been fined as well for abandoning the match before it was over as the referees have been reluctant to do so no matter what the circumstance.

When Danny Rose, kicked the ball at the Serbian fans during an U-21 match back in October last year, he was red carded. Boateng would have been meted with similar treatment had this been a Champions League or a Serie A game or in that case any other official match, but how else do you expect these players to react when they are abused and embarrassed for their origin and colour time and again all over the continent?

Imagine getting slated at your workplace everytime you step into your office to start a day of work. Now picture a footballer in a similar situation with so much already on his plate when he steps onto the field to entertain the fans and win a match for his team. Last thing he wants is to get abused for doing his job.

FIFA really needs to take a much tougher stance against racism as imposing fines in just not enough. Allowing teams to walk off and abandoning an ongoing match needs to be looked at more seriously as it affects not only the club but the fans ‘directly’.

Not just that.

The teams whose fans are guilty of racism should be suspended from the competition immediately or docked points as this will send out a louder message to the fans who love their teams more than anyone else. Yes, the big question is that the majority of fans who just come to the stadiums regularly to enjoy the game will be affected thanks to a handful of idiots but such a hard stance will make each and every fan responsible against racism. No fan would want to see his/her club suspended from a competition or docked points.

What this will also do, is make every fan vigilant against the handful of perpetrators who might be sitting in the vicinity and report any such instance in order to avoid suspension which would affect him/her for no reason. It’s a common life experience that things are controlled to a much larger degree when people know they will also be held responsible - never mind then, whether they are involved or not. In this case, the onus falls directly on the fans, not just the authorities.

It’s simple. Make sure it doesn’t happen around you, or else face the ire of the rulebook.

Ambrosini apologized for leading his team back to the dressing room as it affected the majority of fans who were not directly involved with the fateful incident. But his team was greeted with cheers when it happened, in obvious show of solidarity by the home fans who supported Milan’s decision which was very encouraging. What will be more encouraging is if FIFA takes a closer look on its fight against racism and use Milan’s act as a precedent to implement tougher laws.

When the Serbian FA was asked to pay a fine of 65,000 pounds for racism against the English players last December and Nicklas Bendtner was fined 100,000 pounds for endorsing a betting company via his undergarment during the Euros, we all realized what was more important to the authorities.

High time, the fans are ‘made’ to take responsibility.

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