Soccer is the most played sport in the world, yet it also has a controversial history of racism. In recent years, Liverpool Football Club has been one of the sport’s major teams most criticized for its players and fans’ racial abuse thrown at its opposition. As such a public problem has done damage to the club’s image, Liverpool has recently released an explicit guide, for its staff members, on how to tackle racism. The move to do so has only reinforced the need for FIFA’s anti-racism policies, and has – at the very least – proven that the sport can work to improve race relations. As a fan of the sport, I say it's a step in the right direction.
As the English Premier League has made major strides since its dark days of very overt discrimination only three decades ago, Liverpool has come under a great deal of scrutiny for certain regressions. The most well known altercation in recent years has come from Liverpool’s Luis Suarez, who was banned for several games due to racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra. While the taunts came from one of the club’s soccer players, similar mistreatment has stemmed from the stands. A little over a year ago, Tom Adeyami – a defender for Oldham Athletic – broke down in tears after hearing degrading words from a Liverpool fan. It comes as no surprise, then, that the club has decided to help its staff quell any racism heard or seen on its official grounds. The guide lists commonly used derogatory terms and how they can be dealt with. As strange as it may seem, it's completely necessary, as the sport has continuously seen similar predicaments arise.
A similarly infamous moment occured when Barcelona's home-grown Sergio Busquets called a rival player a "monkey". Just recently, Gaetano Iannini of Italy was given a 10-game ban for going after Ghanaian Caleb Ansah Ekuban. Perhaps the most peculiar case, though, is Italy’s extremely talented Mario Balotelli (pictured above). Balotelli was born and raised in Italy by Italian parents, but because he is Ghanaian by origin, has dealt with racism several times throughout the duration of his career and life. Ghana’s Kevin-Prince Boateng has also dealt with similar chants, though he was born and raised in Germany to a Ghanaian father and German mother.
Some athletes, including Nathaniel Chalobah of England, believe those targeted by racial slurs should use it as motivation. However, as much as that helps players rid themselves of justified anger, it’s a personal solution to a public problem. While it would be unfair to say this problem is only found in Europe, much of it does happen in the area due to it being a hub for the world’s greatest soccer teams and players. It’s where a club, such as Manchester United, can say they employ soccer players from over 15 countries. Unfortunately, with that cosmopolitanism of many teams comes the truth that xenophobia is still an issue in much of the region. As a person who has lived in Spain – a country where former Barcelona player, Samuel Eto’o, has dealt with severe racial abuse – I can’t deny the fact that it’s an issue that still needs addressing.
That’s why Liverpool is blunt – and completely appropriate – with their tips on dealing with racist remarks. It’s where the FARE network comes in, fighting discrimination so that we may hopefully move on to witness a game between two teams without the fear of abuse being thrown at anyone. It's how this worldly sport will finally overcome its twisted hurdles to respect all of its participants. Through these methods, it could be possible that soccer – sometimes Europe’s most used channel of diplomacy – can influence racism into being taboo enough to reduce it significantly.