Amid the controversy following England U21’s 1-0 victory over their Serbian counterparts, in Serbia, we once again have another allegation of racism dogging the sport, and FIFA’s reaction will be important in showing whether they are finally going to put racism to bed in the sport.
For me, the answer is simple. If incontrovertible proof is provided – and in this day and age, with cameras and microphones around the stadium, it really shouldn’t be hard to prove – that racist chanting has happened, then that set of fans should be punished. For the next home match (or matches, if need be) fans will be banned from watching. Simple as.
The match(es) must go ahead, of course, but what better way of bringing home the seriousness of the offence to the fans and the corresponding FA, that racism will not be tolerated, then by preventing said fans from watching the match and preventing the FA from recouping the costs of the match from ticket sales. Equally, without a home set of fans to cheer a team on, the home match loses some of its advantage for the home team.
If FIFA fail to take the issue seriously it will persist and we’ll still be talking about this a month from now, a year from now and at major tournaments decades from now. Those tournaments should be spectacles for the world of football to feel good about itself, be unifiers for the participating nations and a chance for peoples around the world to unite in a shared passion for something bigger than them. No one wants them to descend into ‘vulgar and inappropriate’ spectacles (as the Serbian FA condemned Danny Rose, the player being subjected to racist chanting, without a shred of irony) and it does all, fans, players, staff and countrymen of all races, a disservice to allow racism to persist.
It’s the 21st century and that should mean something, in the world of football as much as anywhere else.