ZURICH: FIFA sought to show UEFA’s shrinking disciplinary violets a more decisive response to racist chanting by fans when it punished Bulgaria and Hungary with both fines and World Cup stadia closures writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
The punishments came hard on the heels of last week’s walk-off by Milan players during a friendly in Italy in protest at offensive chanting by fans of fourth division Pro Patria.
FIFA fined Bulgaria $38,000 and ordered them to play their next home game, against Malta on March 22, in an empty stadium. Bulgarian fans made monkey chants at Denmark defender Patrick Mtiliga, who is black, during a World Cup qualifier in Sofia on October 12.
The Hungarian federation was fined $43,400 and ordered to play their World Cup qualifier against Romania, also on March 22, in an empty stadium. Fans had directed anti-Semitic slogans and reportedly displayed Iran flags to insult Israel at an August 15 friendly in Budapest.
FIFA declined to take World Cup qualifying points from either team as its disciplinary code allows, and which would have severely damaged the two teams’ chances of reaching the 2014 finals in Brazil.
Bulgaria and Hungary are in second place in their respective groups, which would be enough to earn a place in the European playoffs in November.
A FIFA statement said: “FIFA strongly condemns all forms of racism in football, and any form of discrimination will not be tolerated and will receive a strong response by the relevant FIFA authorities.”
Last week FIFA president Sepp Blatter said “must be a deduction of points or something similar” to uphold a zero tolerance stance on racism and discrimination. On Monday, at the FIFA Gala, Blatter said players following the example of Milan’s Kevin-Prince Boateng last week and leaving the pitch, “cannot be the solution in the long term.”
FIFA was assisted in its disciplinary action by the European fans’ network FARE, which sends anti-discrimination monitors to high-risk matches.
Denmark also complained to FIFA after second-half substitute Mtiliga, whose father is from Tanzania, was abused by Bulgaria fans during the 1-1 draw.
The Bulgarian Football Union was fined €40,000 by UEFA for racist abuse by fans directed at England winger Ashley Young in their European Championship qualifier in September 2011.