The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) has come under a lot of criticism lately, due to its decision to dissolve its Anti-Racism Task Force. The decision has been described as “shameful”, “a betrayal”, etc. by anti-racism campaigners, football stakeholders, players and even people associated with the task force. The criticism stems from the perception that the move indicates and abandonment by FIFA of the fight against racism. However, the FIFA General Secretary has sought to clarify that the taskforce had a specific mandate which it has fully fulfilled and its recommendations are being acted upon.
Perhaps FIFA could have dissolved the task force with more finesse, such as adequately publicising the full extent of its implementation of the task force’s recommendations or its next line of action in the fight against racism. For instance, as part of the implementation of the task force’s recommendations, last year FIFA launched a new system of the use of “match observers” to observe and report on incidents of racism and discrimination ahead of the 2018 World Cup qualifier matches. The observers’ mandate is to look out for racism-related incidents and report them to FIFA, which will then take disciplinary action.
Of course, one agrees with Mr. Osasu Obayiuwana, a member of the task force, that the problem of racism in football remains a burning issue, which needs continuous attention. However, from my chat with Lolia Tom-George of sportssin.blogspot.com.ng, one also agrees that the problem of racism is largely a European/UEFA problem. Indeed, racism does not emanate from other Confederations the way is does under UEFA; so, perhaps UEFA should step up and be the avant-garde in the fight against racism. This is not to downplay the fact that racism has a global impact or the responsibility of FIFA as the world football governing body. Indeed, racism in one corner generally undermines the basic tenets of equality and social justice which are fundamental to the global game of football.
The point however is simple – while FIFA must not relent in its fight against racism, UEFA should acknowledge itself as the neighbour who breeds the nuisance and therefore having a major responsibility to tackle this vice of racism that is a scourge on the global game.