RIO DE JANEIRO: Two and possibly four nations face disciplinary sanctions over the discriminatory misbehaviour of their fans at the World Cup writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
Supporters of hosts Brazil as well as those of Mexico, Russia and Croatia have been reported for a variety of potential offences by the anti-discrimination watchdog FARE, which is monitoring racist and homophobic behaviour at the finals.
The most serious, by far, are those concerning Russia and Croatia which both – as usual at major tournaments – face disciplinary action over what have been described as ‘neo-Nazi banners’ during their group matches against South Korea and Brazil.
Brazilian and Mexican fans have been reported, apparently, for ‘simple’ insulting of opposition players.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter, in his address last week to FIFA Congress, took up the theme of the world federation’s anti-discrimgation campaign. He said: “We stand united and strong against all forms of racism and discrimination.
“We must impose the toughest punishments to send a clear message. Suspensions and empty stadia are not enough. We should be docking points, expelling teams or relegating them.”
Both Russia and Croatia have ‘form’.
The two federations were punished by European federation UEFA during the Euro 2012 finals in Poland and Ukraine two years ago.
A suspended six-point penalty was imposed on Russia for their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign after violent behaviour by fans during a tie against the Czech Republic as well as the display of provocative and insulting banners. The federation was also fined for chants aimed at a black Czech player.
The racist behaviour of swathes of domesic fans was a concern raised when Russia was seeking to win host rights to the 2018 World Cup.
Players such as former Brazilian superstar Roberto Carlos and Manchester City midfielder Yaya Touré were among many subjected to insulting words, missiles and general misbehaviour.
Croatia’s federation was fined three times at Euro 2012 for various supporter offences, including the display of illicit banners and chants directed at Italy striker Mario Balotelli.
Their midfielder Josip Simunic was subjected to a 10-game ban – which ruled him out of the World Cup – after leading fans in what is perceived to be a neo-Nazi celebration chorus after their qualifying victory.
Insulting opposition players and coaches has been standard practice just about as long as the modern game has been organised but FARE’s concern is specifically with discriminating targeting of minority groups. Piara Powar, executive director of FARE and a member of Fifa’s anti-racism task force, said: “It seems that some fans of some countries will take their hatred halfway around the world.
“These images need to be acted on urgently. The levels of homophobic abuse at some matches is also totally unacceptable. There is some rapid education required before it begins to run out of control.”