Fifa president Sepp Blatter must have a severe case of foot-in-mouth disease. The football don known for his verbal faux pas made more worrying comments last week.
This time il duce raised certain sectors of the football fraternity’s ire by saying racism is not a major problem in the world’s favourite sport.
“I would deny it. There is no racism, there is maybe one of the players towards another, he has a word or a gesture which is not the correct one. We are in a game, and at the end of the game, we shake hands, and this can happen, because we have worked so hard against racism and discrimination. I think the whole world is aware of the efforts we are making against racism and discrimination. And on the field of play sometimes you say something that is not very correct, but then at the end of the game, the game is over and you have the next game where you can behave better,” Blatter said in an interview with CNN World Sport.
Even if one gives the 75-year-old Swiss the benefit of the doubt — he may not be completely au fait with the English language after all — the implications of the above are still damning at best.
Here we have the head of a multi-national organisation — representing over a billion people’s interests — and he claims racism in football is a non-issue.
This is despite the fact that players of a darker hue have had bananas hurled at them by rival fans and are addressed with monkey-like chants by opposing players on a regular basis.
Indeed the game has faced a series of racism allegations on the pitch in past months.
The two most documented of these occurred during October in England, and are under review by the English Football Association.
Liverpool’s Luis Suarez apparently hurled bigoted vitriol at Manchester United defender Patrice Evra, while England captain John Terry was reported to have given a racist-fuelled dressing down to QPR’s Anton Ferdinand in a Chelsea match.
It’s ridiculous that global football icons, constantly under scrutiny, are dumb enough to be so racist — in public nogal. But it serves as a stark reminder that racism is unfortunately alive and well.
After his apologist comments Blatter did what any good global politico worth his salt would do: He apologised — but refused to resign.
To further diffuse the situation Fifa circulated photos of Blatter and Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale — who has worked as an anti-racism executive at the football body.
Now, isn’t that JUST the typical manoeuvre when someone is accused of racism: I’m not racist — look how many black friends I have!
Pictures with black people aside, would it be offside to suggest Brother Blatter is simply not the man to be tasked with tackling prejudice in the world’s most popular sport?
But let’s not get excited at the prospect of global football transformation. The world’s football body has time and time again proved it only serves its own interests and is effectively incapable of change.
Many South African businesses are still feeling the pinch after the stinging commercial restrictions imposed on them by Fifa during the Soccer World Cup in South Africa.
In the South African context, one could argue that at times the race card is all too often played as a convenient escape route from unrelated problems in society, but to discount racism as brazen as this is inexcusable.
If Fifa was serious about tackling racism it would have shown Blatter the red card, but given the Swiss’s slippery nature I expect him to rule Mugabe-style until he leaves this mortal coil.
You can clean up the bananas that get thrown around during a racist incident but you can’t eradicate the racism problem by simply removing it from the public eye and claiming it doesn’t exist.
We need action. Because as long as we allow discrimination in the realm of recreation, how do we effectively confront it in other parts of our society?