A failure to react
On the 27th of March, France beat World Cup hosts Russia 3-1 at the Krestovsky Stadium in St. Petersburg. On the 8th of May, the Russian Football Union were fined £22,000 for racist chants directed at Paul Pogba, Ousmane Dembele and N’Golo Kante.
This response was described as “pitiful” by the chair of Kick It Out, an organisation funded by a range of British football associations with the aim to kick racism out of every layer of professional football. The fact that FIFA produces such small fines for such serious incidents suggests that the issue of racism is not high up on the organisation’s list of priorities.
Stanislav Cherchesov, the coach of the Russian national team, stated that he does not think that Russian football produces racism “on a scale that needs to be fought”. On the contrary, a study produced by Fare Network and Sova Center has revealed a spike in racist and homophobic chanting in Russia during the 2017/18 season with 19 recorded incidents.
Fare has had to issue warnings to traveling fans about the possibility of racial profiling by the police amongst other potential threats. These kinds of problems should not have to be tolerated by fans traveling to a competition like the World Cup—a competition that celebrates diversity and global unity regardless of diplomatic tensions.
The English Rose
The most recent development on this topic has come from a string of extremely open interviews from Tottenham left back Danny Rose. He revealed that he has told his family not to travel to Russia for the World Cup as he doesn’t want to be worrying about their safety whilst preparing for games. This decision was no doubt influenced by the racial abuse experienced by his mother in Doncaster as well as other incidents that have infiltrated his family home.
Rose described his father’s heartbreak on being told that he can’t go with his son to the competition and he blames this on the decision for the World Cup to be played in Russia. Rose said, “…it’s really sad. It’s just how it is. Somehow Russia got the World Cup and we have to get on with it.” Rose goes on to describe the £22,000 fine imposed on the hosts for racist chanting back in March as “laughable”, as such a small amount makes absolutely no difference to anyone.
Remain numb or react?
The Tottenham player closes with the admission that he has become numb to racist jeers and just gets on with it. He has seen no indication that anything will change and he therefore has decided to play football rather than try to change the world by responding. When playing for the England U-21 side he was sent off for reacting to racist jaunts from Serbian supporters and this has made it clear to Rose that he will not receive the required support if he were to react in this month’s World Cup.
In reference to the conversations that England have had as a team, it sounds as if no specific instructions have been given and if anything happens then the reaction will be instinctive. This brings to light the issue with players being punished for reacting to racial abuse, an element that has not been resolved and could create major problems during the World Cup. It surely cannot be seen as an overreaction to leave a football pitch when being abused by fans or other players; some things are simply bigger than football.
Bigger than Russia
Hopefully in six weeks’ time the competition will close on a positive note with no lingering controversy or tension. Nevertheless, the topics discussed above and the brave but saddening honesty of Danny Rose will still remain extremely relevant as long as football associations across the globe continue to allow intolerance and abuse to be projected from the stands.