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Butler: Why can't we all live together?

Noel Butler
11/23/2013 8:53:34 PM
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I first covered the most unsavoury subject on planet futbol in a February 2006 blog, and at the time thought like all other pre-civilized diseases on mother earth the authorities would do all they possible could to ensure it would soon be eradicated.

How foolishly wrong I was.

Forget the now inherent corruption and back handed favours that plague the beautiful game.

Goal Line Technology? You're having a laugh.

As for them penalty cheating bandits, football's lawmakers upend them by awarding the penalty to the opponent each time a player attempts to con the referee into awarding ghost penalties.

This at least ensures Cristiano and Gareth remain upright for the next el clásico.

What Josip Simunic did following the final whistle in Zagreb Tuesday night is beyond the pale of rational or reasonable behaviour.

This has to finally be the point FIFA and UEFA finally begin to behave in a manner which will ensure the so termed beautiful game is rid of racism. 

Let there be no doubt, this is hardly an isolated case.

Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini need to take a long, hard and very painful look at themselves and their organizations for their inertia, pitiful response and the lenient way they have dealt with offenders. In some cases, repeat offenders.

The punishment is not even close to the offense taken and crime committed. Shaking hands doesn't count, Blatter.

The effect of leniency has provided the breeding ground which has allowed racism on the terraces and the sacred pitch itself to evolve into a form that is not far removed from becoming structural.  Dare I say an accepted practice?

My February 2006 blog highlighted the fact a fringe minority of so called Real Zaragoza supporters were repeat offenders for racially abusing Samuel Eto'o.

Moreover, I was as troubled by the fact when the racism had occurred the previous year the response from the authorities was to fine Zaragoza €600, approximately $1,000.

Eto'o was so incensed by the events in 2006 to again be the target of this depraved and cowardly behaviour he wanted to send a message he had enough and was willing to walk off the pitch.

It took his then coach Frank Rijkaard and some of his Barcelona teammates to convince the Cameroonian to not allow the racists win.

Shamefully no one in a position of real authority that particular Zaragoza night decided to act in the required manner and right there in that moment begin the long hard process of finally doing something more meaningful than the lip service of an appeal on the PA system.

The referee requested Real Zaragoza make an announcement on the stadium public address system for those guilty to refrain from the racism. Not sure if they used the word please.

Obviously 2005's €600 fine to Zaragoza was hardly a deterrent.

Or the first time such behaviour had occurred. Merely the first time the authorities felt compelled to be seen to be doing something about it.

Plainly, what the Spanish Football Federation did, likely briefing or getting direction from UEFA as they went, sent a clear intention that brushing it under the carpet was all they were willing to do.

I can't quite understand why it's the club the authorities go after and not the actual cowardly perpetrators themselves. They use their football club as a smokescreen.

We could list here all the separate racist incidents that have occurred in European football since 2005 and the word worthless could fit in terms of an adjective for the so called punishments that have been handed out.

Excuse me, sanctions. Punishment almost directly infers a crime had previously been committed.

The most recent reported case of racism occurred in last month's CSKA Moscow v Manchester City Champions League match. Yes, many cases do go unreported and undetected.

City captain Yaya Toure was the target on that particular Moscow night.

Russian football's response to this was to accuse the English of a smear campaign, whilst CSKA rolled out the denial campaign. UEFA went away from its fines system and went for the partial stadium closure sanction.

Three institutions, three strikes. Shameful.

How's this for flexing your muscles? In UEFA's official statement, they omitted any explicit racist references to what went on that particular night.

Wholly unacceptably, UEFA's statement referred to the matter as an 'incident'.

The first sentence of the statement reading, "The UEFA Control and Disciplinary Body has handed down sanctions to CSKA Moscow following incidents during their UEFA Champions League home game against Manchester City"

An incident? Of what nature exactly.

Late in the statement we find out the sanction is partial closure to a section of the stadium where the horrific abuse stemmed from.
UEFA couldn't even bring themselves to close the entire stadium, or even for that matter, the South Stand which is the part of the ground the racist cowards like to associate themselves with. Tough guys only need apply.

When CSKA and Bayern Munich play their UEFA Champion's League group stage match Wednesday, Sector D of the Khimiki Arena will be closed.

It was only in the final paragraph of UEFA's statement were they were willing to use the R word.

"The fight against racism is a high priority for UEFA. All forms of racist behavior are considered serious offenses against the disciplinary regulations and are punished with the most severe sanctions."

If closing a solitary section for a single Champions League match is UEFA's definition of the 'most severe sanctions' then it is all the proof we need the European Custodian of the world's game is incapable of correctly policing itself.

Hardly surprising, shortly after the match, Yaya Toure began speaking of African players and teams boycotting Russia 2018.

Can anyone blame him?

Why is it that where yet again society has grotesquely failed people of African origins they themselves feel compelled to take matters into their own hands?

I ask FIFA and UEFA; do we need to see rioting on the streets before they recognize that it is they  themselves who have a responsibility?

They have failed this generation and are indirectly guilty themselves. I think the legal term is 'by association.'

Too bad Platini doesn't view racism in football as he does the so called financial doping in the code.

When do we see a panel assembled that has the exact same resources and same wide ranging powers  as UEFA's Financial Fair Play executive be put in place to finally rid us of racism in European football.

Apparently you can no longer invest your own personal fortune to better ensure a winning culture pervades at your football club. But at the same token, sit idly back as your customers racially abuse and in some instances commit crimes on the employees of your rivals.

Who invented this system?

Didn't John Terry get charged by the London police in regards to the well documented case involving Rio Ferdinand's younger brother? Ultimately standing trial shortly after appearing for England at EURO 2012.

Why then are the people who claim allegiance to CSKA not feeling the full force of the legal system? 

Simunic was found guilty by the Zagreb legal system for, 'Spreading Racial Hatred' and was fined a paltry $4,000 by the Prosecutor's Office.

What message does that send? Someone else willing to invoke 20th century Nazism for a sum of money Gareth Bale roughly receives for every minute he spends on the Santiago Barnebeau pitch.

Those multi-national companies, including the recently added Russian energy company Gazprom, who set aside millions of dollars each year to partner up and brand themselves around the pinnacle of club football have a duty and obligation to greater society.

Companies are very willing to associate themselves with good causes. There is no greater cause in all of humanity than to foster encouragement in us all to treat one another and each other as our equals.

As in the immortal words of singer Timmy Thomas who asked in his 1972 classic, which over the years has gone on to be re-recorded by a variety of musical greats from a variety of different backgrounds:

Why Can't We Live Together?

Answers on a postcard to Sepp & Michel. I'm sure the two most powerful men in world football are in a good place to cover the cost of the stamps.

You can reach and follow Noel Butler at:
Noel.Butler@BellMedia.ca
@TheSoccerNoel on Twitter

Noel Butler

Noel Butler


Noel Butler is an analyst for TSN's soccer coverage and his blog can be read on TSN.ca. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/TheSoccerNoel and listen to his radio program oranges@halftime on TSN Radio 690 Montreal.

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