Friday, November 2, 2012

Racism on Football Stadiums



'Why is Racism so rampant in the Balkans at the football matches?', asks my friend Irishman, a big sports fan, who lives in Australia for years. The cause of his issues was the now-infamous football match between Serbia and England in the qualifiers for Euro U21, played in Krusevac. After England's winning goal in the referee's compensation, mass brawl between players and members of the coaching staff of both teams  followed, while racist chanting from the stands could be heard all through the match. Like many people, my friend also couldn’t understand how can it be that virtually the entire stadium is insulting an opponent dark-skinned player. Abovementioned player, Danny Rose (20), said:  ‘Every time I went to get the ball for a throw-in, the fans started monkey chants', adding that he found it difficult to concentrate on the game. In 60th minute Rose angrily kicked the ball and was shown a red card.

The question was left hanging in the air: Why racism and violence in the Balkan's football stadiums? At first I didn't know what to say though this match is not an isolated example. For didn't FIFA fine HNS (Croatian Football Association) in 2008 due to racist insults of English national team player Emil Heskey?

The answer arrived quickly. In fact, although a bitter war raged in this region more than 20 years ago, it seems that in the minds of some individuals the war is still going on. And such people tend to always blame others (and different) people for every problem - whether it's unemployment, rough times or daily frustrations. A large group of fans was born in the postwar years:  if their parents, their teachers and the society as a whole have not thought them of tolerance, forgiveness and acceptance of diversity, why are we surprised by such events?

It wouldn't be fair to conclude racism in stadiums belongs exclusively to 'Balkan specialties' – there are also examples from other countries. Thus after the recent Euro 2012 UEFA sanctioned Spanish and Russian football federation, as Spanish fans were making monkey noises during the game against Italy to provoke Balotelli and Russian supporters were insulting Czech Gebreselassie.

Could it be that tolerance and mutual respect for opposing fans and players grows the higher the GDP, ie the standard of the country concerned? When was the last time you heard how 'rabid Norwegian fans caused the incident on international football match,' or that the Finns 'have grossly insulted dark-skinned player '? I certainly haven't heard it. But blaming poverty for violent and racist outbursts would only scratch the surface of the growing problems.

Therefore, football federations should punish such crimes harsher, but more important - the fans should develop an awareness that no negative energy discharging by brawling or racist chanting will ever resolve their issues. The same problems will still be waiting for them after they return from the football game, they are just going get another one:  the fact they have made fools of themselves when they wholeheartedly embraced insulting of a player based on his skin color. And the fact they, as Serbs would say, 'have missed the entire football' ('promasili ceo fudbal').

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