PORT LOUIS: World football delegates were told to go home from FIFA Congress and take the strongest possible action against racism in the game writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter set the tone in his opening address to representatives from 208 football associations from around the world gathered at the SVI Convention Centre.

Surprisingly for Blatter there was one vote against the resolution in favour of tough sanctions against guilty clubs, players and officials.

After years of turning a blind eye to racism, both the world federation and European body UEFA have ‘discovered’ the issue this year. The awakening trigger was Milan’s decision to walk off the pitch during a friendly in Italy in January after fans targeted Kevin-Prince Boateng for racist abuse.

FIFA then set up an anti-racism task force under the CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb which brought an appropriate resolution to congress.

‘Long shadow’

Blatter said: “There have been despicable events this year which have cast a long shadow over football and the rest of society. I am speaking about the politics of hate – racism, dicrimination, small-minded prejudice –  that uncivilised, immoral and self-destructive force that we all detest.

“This has no place in football .

“A football does not discriminate and neither should we. We should join together to drive prejudice from our door to show the rest of the world how we should behave towards one another – with respect and compassion.”

Blatter then told the delegates directly: “More must be done outside, back in our respective home nations. We need to exert zero tolerance and severe punishments everywhere. Football can show the way, we can make a difference.

“With our new task force led by Jeffrey Webb and through the resolution before you we can send a strong signal to the racist that their time is up and finished.”

Formal proposals

Webb proposed a resolution in support of formal proposals which would mean tougher penalties for clubs whose players, officials or fans are guilty of racism, tougher sanctions against re-offenders, including points deductions, expulsions from competitions or relegation.

This would include a minimum five-match ban against players guilty of racial abuse, the same standard adopted earlier this year by England’s Football Association but only half the 10-match ban demanded in Europe last week by UEFA.

The resolution was carried overwhelmingly by 204 votes to one with two abstentions. The one vote against was dismissed by Blatter – hopefully, he said – as “a mistake in voting.”