16 December 2012

2012: the year of the racists

England's Danny Rose (3) was abused by Serbian supporters in October.

2012 has been a great year for British sport in general.

The whole country was glued to the London Olympics, where we saw unprecedented success for the team representing Great Britain, or at least that was what the country was called until some Polish advertising executive decided to Americanize us into Team GB.

Sportspeople like Bradley Wiggins, Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis - all of whom would be deserving winners of BBC Sports Personality of the Year - summed up not only the Olympic spirit but the new determination to win that us Britons now have.

If 2012 could be summed up by one word, many of us would say 'gold'. You couldn't say that about football, though.

This was the year that the British not quite fell out of love with football, but more stopped being obsessed with it. That's because the word of 2012, as far as football is concerned, is 'racism'.

Towards the back end of 2011, there were two high-profile racism cases in the Premier League. By December of that year, the FA had already imposed an eight-match ban on Luis Suarez for his slur aimed at Patrice Evra.

However, it took until this September - 11 months in total - for the FA to ban Chelsea captain John Terry for using racist language towards Anton Ferdinand of Queens Park Rangers. During those 11 months, the whole saga became a media circus. He was stripped of the England captaincy, and taken to court, where he was found not guilty of the charges he faced.

How long did the FA ban Terry for? Four matches. Go figure.

When it comes to dealing with racism, David Bernstein and co could be described as 'inconsistent' in their punishments for offenders. UEFA could be described as 'ignorant'.

Back in October, England Under-21s defender Danny Rose was subjected to the most appalling racial slurs by large numbers of Serbian football fans. His reaction to the abuse started a large brawl between players and coaching staff of both the England and Serbia teams.

UEFA seemed to pay more attention to the scuffle than the racial abuse. Four Serbian players and two English players, Steven Caulker and Tom Ince (both black, I may add), were suspended for their parts in the melee and two Serb coaches were banned outright for two years apiece.

What punishment did the Serbian FA get for what happened in Krusevac? A fine of €80,000 - that's £65,000 in sterling - and an order to play one Under-21s game behind closed doors. For goodness sake, Nicklas Bendtner received a larger fine for sporting a pair of sponsored underpants at UEFA Euro 2012! Good to see Michel Platini has his priorities spot on.

Anti-racism campaigners were incensed, and rightly so. Lord Herman Ouseley of Kick It Out said, "This is a paltry slap on the wrist and again we haven't seen decisive action from UEFA."

UEFA's punishment for Serbia was seen as so paltry that FIFA president Sepp Blatter, hardly the most reasonable of sports administrators, said he'd meet with Platini to discuss it. Let's hope that when they do meet, Blatter is the man speaking sense for once.

Yesterday evening, another news story concerning racism in English football broke. It is alleged that Manchester City's Serbia defender Aleksandar Kolarov made insulting comments to a couple of Newcastle United fans who were holding up an Albanian flag.

Those of you who know about the Yugoslav civil war in the 1990s and the tensions surrounding Kosovo will know very well that Serbians and Albanians are not the best of buddies. We've had plenty of stories about whites abusing blacks, and this is another form of racism if Kolarov did abuse those two Albanians.

This is the same Kolarov that just a few days ago filmed his take on what Jingle Bells would've sounded like if it had been 'sung' by William Shatner.

A comedy genius with racist tendencies? Who'd have thought that Aleksandar Kolarov was related to Jim Davidson?

In all seriousness, though, it is sad that football this year has been overshadowed by the same issue. As well as those incidents listed above, we've also had these:
  • Oldham Athletic midfielder Tom Adeyemi was left visibly upset after receiving abuse from a Liverpool supporter, who was not charged with any crime over the incident.
  • Another Oldham player, Lee Croft, was wrongly accused of hurling racist language at a ball boy.
  • A teenage Millwall fan racially taunted Bolton Wanderers striker Marvin Sordell at The Den. Sordell's team-mates Lee Chung-Yong, Darren Pratley and Benik Afobe were also insulted.
  • Aldershot Town striker Danny Hylton received an eight-match ban after being found guilty of two charges of racial abuse.
2013 is just over two weeks away. Let's hope that 'racism' is not a word that is even mentioned when we review the footballing events of that year.

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