If he wasn't a law unto himself, Sepp Blatter would be out of a job. But his latest comments are just another chapter in the long book of ignorance from the Fifa president.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that conventional history was correct and that dinosaurs had ceased to roam the Earth around 65 million years ago. There’s lots of evidence to support this theory and, discounting fundamentalist Christian explanations of course, it seems reasonably solid. Then, just when you think you can feel comfortable accepting the facts as they are, there’s Sepp Blatter.
The leathery and inept president of FIFA has always seemed to hail from the Triassic era, which was remarkable for its major extinction of large amounts of animal life. Somehow Blatter survived, probably by hiding under the same rock he seems to be living under now if his comments on racism are anything to go by. See, despite it making headline news twice in a matter of weeks, it doesn’t exist. There is no racism in football. And even if there was, there’s no reason to get upset about it.
If you think that’s over-paraphrasing what the man affectionately known as Sceptic Bladder has said then you’ve obviously not had the grave misfortune to have read a transcript of his latest outpouring of utter s**t. It could only have been made worse if he had gone on to fondly remember his favourite episode of the Black and White Minstrel show shortly afterwards while doing “jazz hands”.
Yes, his exact words when asked if racism was a problem on the football field were “I would deny it. There is no racism,” a statement he then happily contradicted by adding, “Maybe there is a word or gesture that is not correct. The one affected by this should say this is a game and shake hands.”
No hard feelings. All in the game, right?
The man who at one time stated that female football would be improved by “tighter shorts”, had managed to top himself spectacularly by effectively stating that the only reason racism was in the spotlight at all was because of these uppity types refusing to shake hands with their abusers and leave it on the field.
Given that Blatter is someone who is known for spouting nonsense whenever a microphone is placed in front of him, it’d be easy to dismiss the statements as more of the same. However, there has been a tolerance of his behaviour that is a direct contrast to the antics of the people who use football as a platform through which to spout racial abuse. This is a man who, as incredible as it seems, is a fully trained lawyer and should truly understand the gravity of what he is saying at all times.
The fact that his initial dismissive statement is at direct loggerheads with the many drives to stamp out racism in the modern game, fines against countries such as Croatia over their fans abusing black English players, the prevalence of racist chanting and reverence of fascist ideals among sections of fans at clubs such as Lazio… There is a body of evidence to suggest that racism is far from beat in the modern game and you don’t need to be an expert lip-reader to see that even the England captain has a case to answer.
There is no doubt that they days when monkey chants were heard freely on the terraces are thankfully behind us. Are we free and clear from racism in football? Clearly not. Just this Summer Brazilian legend Roberto Carlos had a banana thrown at him from the crowd whilst playing in the Russian league, the country deemed suitable to host the 2018 World Cup amidst assurances they will deal with racism seriously. The real question in all of this has to be “Has racism been tackled or have the racists simply become less brazen and (if such a term can be applied to these people) smarter in their application of abuse?”
Blatter has no time for such questions, the real questions of the racism debate. Indeed, the logical conclusion to arrive at based on his statements, is that the energy being ploughed into preventing racism would be better spent elsewhere, especially when the problem can be made to disappear overnight by the abused players simply not complaining about it. What a true visionary he is… Think of all the problems we could make disappear overnight if people were willing to simply “shake hands” and forget about it. Why, I think we could cut domestic abuse cases in half, make rape a thing of the past and do away with that unpleasant business of attempted murder altogether. Just shake hands. No hard feelings. All in the game, right?
When the head of FIFA sounds more like your average member of the BNP, there’s something drastically wrong.
It is monstrous logic and what is worse is that it will be music to the ears of the few remaining louts in the stands. After all, it’s the same argument they’ve been espousing for years, how racism is just part and parcel of the game and why it’s no different to the chants shouted at portly midfielders, or how someone’s wife takes it up the arse. It’s just a wind-up, innit mate?
What most people of even a modest intellect understand that it’s not the words themselves that do the damage. Implying that someone of a race other than Caucasian have thinner skin as well as that of a different colour is in itself racially disparaging. The trouble is that the constant use of the language, the societal acceptance that it is OK to effectively label and dehumanise someone based on skin colour and ethnic background, slowly creates a system that is imbalanced and unfair, even in ways that are almost imperceptible. It might start out there on the field, spill over to the stands but it ends up down the pub, on our streets, in our offices, taking hold in our communities because it is seen as no big deal and then propagated because future generations take up that same apathetic standpoint.
When the head of FIFA sounds more like your average member of the BNP, there’s something drastically wrong and if the world’s governing body truly want to be seen as being serious about tackling racism head on, then surely they can no longer be fronted by someone who doesn’t believe it exists. Had such a public figure in any other area made such comments it’s hard to imagine they’d be employed by the time they left the podium.
In the best case scenario Blatter is simply an ignorant old fool, oblivious to the reality that many footballers, managers and fans face. At worst this is a calculated dismissal of an issue that he sees as unimportant. Either way it’s time to make this dinosaur extinct if we ever have serious hope for a similar end to racism in football.
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