Yaya Toure: CSKA's Lies About Racist Abuse Is The Most Damaging Thing In Man City Row

As Yaya Touré becomes the latest footballer to suffer from racial abuse in Russia, is enough is being done to tackle such a complicated issue?
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As Yaya Touré becomes the latest footballer to suffer from racial abuse in Russia, is enough is being done to tackle such a complicated issue?

Yaya Toure: CSKA's Lies About Racist Abuse Is The Most Damaging Thing In Man City Row

As one of the most talented box to box midfielders in the world, Yaya Touré  is a joy to behold once he steps onto a football pitch.

At 6ft 4, his considerable frame and athleticism allows the Ivorian to switch defence to attack with lung bursting runs forward, whilst his close control and distribution of the ball in tight areas, makes him incredibly difficult to defend against effectively.

Talents like Yaya Touré are part of the reason football fans get so much enjoyment out of watching the beautiful game and yet the racist chants directed at the midfield colossus last night, make you contemplate whether some ‘fans’ even deserve the privilege of seeing such stars.

Whilst I’m not suggesting that the racial abuse of Touré is any worse than any similar incident in football’s recent history, it was a painful reminder that despite large scale anti-racism campaigns and the almost unanimous support they’ve received from footballers around the world, there needs to be more done to prevent such abuse from occurring.

UEFA recently introduced new measures to tackle the scourge of racism in football, finally realising that meagre fines alone are not a sufficient deterrent and failed to address the fact that this is a human issue, not a financial one.

The new guidelines state that when a group of supporters is found guilty of racially abusive behaviour, their actions will be met with the punishment of both partial and full stadium closures.

For a first offence, half the stadium is banned from attending and following a second offence UEFA have the power to instigate a full stadium closure and fine of up to €50,000.

Despite UEFA’s insistence that they realise racism is a not a financial issue but a human one, their new solution of enforcing stadium closures is seemingly just another method of economic sanction.

UEFA hopes the closure will inflict financial losses on the club due to lack of ticket sales and thus is still addressing the matter in the very manner it has stated is inappropriate.

So far this season UEFA has imposed full stadium closures on Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia), Honved (Hungary) and Legia Warsaw (Poland), whilst sanctioning half closures against Lazio (Italy), Lech Poznan (Poland), HNK Rijeka (Croatia) and Apoel Nicosia (Cyprus).

Whilst it remains to be seen if such methods are indeed the best way of providing a deterrent to racist fans, such actions at least provide evidence that UEFA seem to be taking their responsibility as a governing body, more seriously this season.

In the case of Yaya Touré however, it has become evident that the clear guidelines in place for referees were simply not followed by Romanian official Ovidiu Hategan, who was in charge of last night’s Champions League clash.

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UEFA guidelines state that it is the referee’s responsibility to temporarily bring the game to a halt following a report of racial abuse. The stadium managers are then informed and are to put out an announcement of the complaint, followed by a warning that if such behaviour is repeated, it could mean the home team forfeiting the game.

Despite what seem to be perfectly clear guidelines, Hategan didn’t attempt to halt the game and only reported the allegations of abuse to the match delegate Tormod Larsen, following the final whistle.

Since such details of the referee’s failure have emerged, anti-racism body Kick It Out have called for the immediate suspension of the referee and an official statement from UEFA to remind all officials of their required duties in such situations.

The most sickening aspect of the entire incident however, may be the pathetic attempts by both CSKA’s media manager and coach at feigning ignorance over the alleged abuse.

Following the game, CSKA’s media manager Michael Sanadze responded to Touré’s claim stating, ‘there is nothing to report, nothing special happened. There was a lot of noise in the stadium and nobody else heard anything. The only trouble that has come about is because Yaya Touré heard something.”

For someone whose role involves him managing the club’s media, including the impression the club gives off to the world, Sanadze’s statement could not have been more misguided.

Not only does Sanadze refuse to acknowledge that there was an obvious undercurrent of racist behaviour within the Russian crowd, but he then goes on to implicitly blame Touré for having the temerity to complain.

Russian press have even quoted CSKA’s Ivory Coast striker Seydou Doumbia, as claiming that Touré’s allegations were ‘clearly exaggerated.’

Sanadze and Doumbia’s statements reflect the damaging impact of modern day racism, where the plausible deniability of such incidents can actually end up doing more damage to a person’s psyche, than that of the original slur.

Had such an incident occurred in a country better known for its social tolerance and welcoming environment, such claims of ignorance may have been more believable. However, Russian football has a long, murky history of racial abuse and thus CSKA’s professions of innocence come across more as defiant insult and a missed opportunity for utter contrition.

In a country where racism and homophobia are actively promoted to varying degrees, it is no wonder that footballers approach their visits to Russia with trepidation rather than excitement.

Therefore, if we are to truly look forward to the 2018 World Cup and not approach it with dread, at the inevitability of racial incidents, those in charge of Russian football must make a concerted effort to tackle an issue that has plagued its country for far too long.

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