FIFA shows red card to racism

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Johannesburg - FIFA will use the World Cup quarter-final matches to fight racism in football and has called on the billions of people around the world to support the campaign which starts on Friday.

At all four quarter-final matches just before kick-off, both team captains will read a declaration to demonstrate a firm stance against racism, not only in football but also in society in general. This was also done during the Confederations Cup in June last year. Both teams and the match officials will also pose jointly with a banner displaying the unequivocal "Say No to Racism" message as part of the official pre-match protocol.

"We are saying we want to make a clear statement to the billion of people around the world about football's united stance against racism and all forms of discrimination and there is no better place to do this that in the World Cup," said Federico Addiech, head of FIFA's social responsibility department.

He was speaking at a FIFA discussion held on Thursday focused on fighting racism and discrimination in sport.

Addiech said FIFA had since 2001 embarked on a strong campaign against racism in the world's biggest sport and the results have been positive. "We are definitely seeing a lot of improvement there is a high level of maturity and tolerance amongst the players and everyone who is involved in football," he said.

Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale in his capacity as a member of the FIFA fair play and social responsibility committee, is also adamant that the first World Cup to be held in Africa will help root out the scourge of racism intolerance among its people.

"Our view is that we must use this event to push back the frontiers of racism and as you can see at the moment our people are now together and we are one nation and we want to keep it like that," Sexwale said.

"It takes a long time to build a nation and I know the world cup is only 31 days and the damage to this country dates back to more than 400 years, its not an easy thing to eradicate, but we are taking every opportunity that we get," he said.

He said South Africa has made progress in its reconciliation attempts that FIFA's decision to award the country the right to host the world's most popular event was an affirmation of the road South African have travelled since 1994. "For us this thing is big, its diminishing the work started by Nelson Mandela in 1994 to say racism has no place in our society so its great that we using it to fight the practice," he said.

Meanwhile, FIFA spokesperson Nicolas Maingot confirmed that the organisation has been officially informed of the Nigerian government's decision to suspend its team from all international sporting events following the team's early exit from the World Cup. A spokesperson for Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan made the announcement on Wednesday.

"I can confirm that FIFA is looking at the case but its too early to speak of any sanctions for now, we need a little bit of time to look at it and see how we handle it," Maingot said, adding that FIFA was also monitoring the developments in France after authorities there summoned the entire coaching staff to the national parliament.

FIFA is very clear on the independence of sports associations from political interference and tough action has been taken in the past against countries that interfere with sports administration. South Africa was expelled from FIFA in 1960s when the country's apartheid government introduced racial segregation in soccer.