January 7th, 2013
10:46 AM ET

Time for football to tackle racism epidemic?

I could feel the frustration in his voice. Kevin-Prince Boateng had decided to make a stand. It wasn’t the first time he had faced racial abuse and he wasn’t going to take it any more. The AC Milan midfielder took a stand and, in my view, became a hero.

During our 15-minute phone conversation, an exclusive interview for CNN, I could tell Boateng was not only frustrated, but also upset that football authorities have not been doing enough to combat racism.

He was angry that currently there is no rule or law in place where players or teams can walk off the field if they are racially abused.

The 25-year-old - born in Germany but who has represented his father's country Ghana - told me he would do it again. Whether it was in a Champions League or World Cup final, he would walk off the pitch if fans insulted him.

This statement should serve as a warning to governing bodies like FIFA and UEFA. There is a decent chance a game could be abandoned in the near future if a team decides to protest against prejudice. Unfortunately, it is a warning they will probably not take seriously.

Why? Well, did you hear what FIFA president Sepp Blatter said on Sunday? The soccer boss had the audacity to declare he did not support Boateng’s decision to walk off the field, or “run away” as he labeled it. He added that it sets a dangerous precedent for the future when players leave the field.

What was he thinking? Has Blatter ever been racially abused? Has he ever felt prejudice? I doubt it. So how can this man have the nerve to say something like that?

If anything, the FIFA president should have said he does not want to see matches abandoned, but in extreme circumstances, like the ones in Italy on Thursday, he would always support the players. Players have feelings and they deserve to be taken into account.

UEFA haven’t looked great in the face of this latest racism scandal either. They did not even register it, or address it in any way.

In my view, football’s governing bodies missed a golden opportunity to make a point and to look like they understand what football’s true problems are.

Financial Fair Play? Yes, it is important, but how is protecting the integrity of players not a bigger priority? I simply do not understand.

Honestly, I hope there is another Boateng. And another. Obviously I don’t want to see more incidents of racism in football, but if they occur I want players to take a stand.

I also hope some of football’s major sponsors will take notice. Maybe the only way governing bodies will react is if companies threaten to withdraw hundreds of millions of dollars of investment from the game. It shouldn’t come to that, but maybe money will speak louder than morals. Again.

So what would I do if I could make a difference? Simple. Any time there was any kind of racist chant or behavior from fans in the stands, the club would have to play five matches behind closed doors.

If it happened again, I would make it 10 matches. I would also give players and teams the right to walk off the pitch if they felt threatened by fans.

Obviously common sense would have to be applied, and the referee would have to approve the decision, but the athletes need to have more power and they need to be able to defend themselves.

To add to these two measures, I would make all federations dedicate part of their yearly budget to running anti-prejudice campaigns.

Obviously not every federation could contribute the same, but every little initiative would help to educate and enlighten people around the world.

These simple changes could make a difference. Playing matches behind closed doors would cost clubs millions of dollars, while education will always have an effect on people.

So well done Kevin-Prince Boateng, you have become a pioneer. By taking a stand, you have made yourself heard and hopefully more of your colleagues will revolt against abuse. There is no place for it in the beautiful game.

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Filed under:  Football
soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. antb10

    Reblogged this on The Sporting Week and commented:
    Racism covered superbly here by CNN

    January 7, 2013 at 12:41 pm | Reply
  2. Mike Arnold

    I carry no water for Blatter but the idea you walk away from racism is absurd. The idea that a club can be the social engine for change is a laugh. Racists are. You can remove an unruly fan. You can pass laws and charge the thug. But how does a walk off by a player do anything of substance to address directly racism. The same taunter is still in the stands, somewhere.

    The loyal, avid, non-racist fan of a club is the penalized party. The thug gets to laugh with his/her chums and revel in the fact that he/she managed to kill a game. Is that the objective? Reward the racist.

    Stop the game. Arrest the SOB. Resume the game. Ban the SOB from the premises. Put the SOB in jail. And you do it one idiot at a time, time after time, until the idiots get it. But that won't end racism.

    Under cover cops in the stands, cameras panning the crowd, real arrests. The fans win, the players are protected, the racists get cuffs.

    What is so tricky?

    January 7, 2013 at 1:08 pm | Reply
  3. Antonio Ishak

    To punish a club & demolish the reputation, will make sponsors flee & will possibly make it hard to regain more sponsors. All has the potential to happen because a hand few of people in the crowed blew out the wrong words. Fans, do not deserve to suffer as a consequence of those few ass****.

    It's fine to take a stand against racism but many Footballers (soccer) players are paid in excess of over $110 000 p/w excluding sponsorship. Other passionate football (soccer) fans including myself would find it ludacris to know that we are not allowed in the stadium to watch our beloved club, because of those few ass***. Yes punish the racists BUT don't have everyone else suffer as a consquence

    January 7, 2013 at 1:32 pm | Reply
  4. Tyler

    He is NOT "Ghanian". He was born in Germany and IS German. Talk about racism..!

    January 7, 2013 at 1:39 pm | Reply
    • garymorley

      Re: Tyler
      Thanks, this has been corrected

      January 7, 2013 at 2:43 pm | Reply
  5. nomso

    Blatter is so funny 'run away'? Seriously?? Well I hope this is eradicated from football. This 2013 folks, not the era of slavery or the supremacy of a race. Hope this never happens again, putting players into a condition to generate controversies. To some Boateng is a hero, to others he set a bad precedent. Nevertheless, to me the racist slur should never have been used and hence no further fuss generated. I am disappointed UEFA is not acting properly and did not take the opportunity to address the problem. I thin referees should be able to suspend a game if they cannot detect the source of those slurs. If they detect it then they can expel the person(s) from the pitch. And the club can suspend the membership of the guilty persons. Such a shame this still happens, but trust me is not prevalent in Europe. The possibility of these happening in France is near to zero.

    January 7, 2013 at 1:41 pm | Reply
  6. Marc A

    A hero is what Prince is.

    January 7, 2013 at 1:43 pm | Reply
  7. Jack

    I have been arguing for years already that Blatter should be put out to pasture – he is a dinosaur....

    BTW Antonio – Ludicrous is an adjective, Ludacris is a rapper. 'Nuf said.

    January 7, 2013 at 2:27 pm | Reply
  8. Alan Robert Guiraldino

    Why won't Boateng play soccer in Africa?!

    January 7, 2013 at 2:48 pm | Reply
  9. Sunday Oliseh

    Am Afraid as long as Blatter is in office or people like Platini nothing will be done to address this issue! Blacks in Europe are relatively in minority but Boateng's action is long overdue.
    Funny enough i also blogged on this and can see where Pedro is coming from.
    The essence of being a leader or in power is to protect the weak or minorities since the majority protect themselves in numbers.
    Blatter will do well to learn this and have a rethinki!

    January 7, 2013 at 4:51 pm | Reply
  10. bab

    @ Tyler!

    Prince Boateng is half German Half Ghanaian.

    January 7, 2013 at 4:54 pm | Reply
  11. bab

    @ Alan
    Prince used to play for the Ghana Black Stars but has retired from the national team to concentrate on Ac Milan

    January 7, 2013 at 5:04 pm | Reply
  12. Alexandrek

    Great Article

    Blatter is a corrupted sport dictator, he's the Sammaranch of Football.
    A disgrace, he belong to the dark past, time to get rid of him

    January 7, 2013 at 5:09 pm | Reply
  13. Tony Flags

    Racism is a problem in society. Football is a different territory with its own rules, where players are expected to be tough and stand certain degree of aggression from fans and peers. It should be a personal call. I a player considers a situate to be abusive he should be able to walk away without penalty, but we can't make it a general rule. Next we'll ban foul language and so on until we have a clean, politically correct, cute game played by a bunch of ladies.

    January 7, 2013 at 5:23 pm | Reply
  14. P Robben

    Listen guys why doesnt he just toughen up and stop being such a girl huh people are being prejudiced against everyday for many reasons so why should black people have preferential treatment huh Its always the same with the race card is always played by them. Sticks and stones may break his bones but names will never harm him!!!!! Im scottish and ive been racialy abused by english people many times but hey who cares !!!! its only words and im not on the wages he's on...Yes i agree its not nice but at the end of the day if you cant let something like that slide of your back then your in the wrong job he needs to toughen the hell up.......He also should thank his luck that at least being black he can "make" a racial complaint against white abuse because if a white man trys to make the same complaint against black racists ,of which theyre are a great many too ,they are laughed out of the police station

    January 7, 2013 at 8:23 pm | Reply
  15. MICHAEL

    Please ask Boateng why is he not playing for ghana?

    January 7, 2013 at 8:48 pm | Reply
  16. Charles

    The charge of racism is ridiculous. Everyone is racist, especially blacks and Asians. Leave it alone.

    January 7, 2013 at 9:14 pm | Reply
  17. Ambrose

    Blatter is thinking about his pocket, FIFA will not make money if players walkoff the field. Maybe he should dye himself black and experience what its like to be racially abused and have FIFA take the side of the abuser

    January 7, 2013 at 9:31 pm | Reply
  18. Ned

    Good for Boateng. Until more players start doing this the powers-that-be will never get serious about banning these kinds of fans. And for folks on here saying players should put up with it b/c its just another form of fan abuse are missing the point. You can insult a player all you want for being on the opposing club (or on your own if they are stinking it up) and players absolutely need to put up with that. But when fans insult the player because of his race or country of origin that is a different thing altogether and players should not have to put up with it. That type of taunting has nothing to do with the players ability or effort on the pitch or with their club; its just ignorance and hatred disguised as team loyalty and it has no place in modern society nor in football.

    January 7, 2013 at 9:40 pm | Reply
  19. Kwame

    As an avid soccer fan (GGMU!!) , i doubt a walk off would be enough to eradicate racism in sports . Neither is it the right way to counter or sooth the pain and frustration that comes along with it. I share the same view as Mike Arnold but in the same vane i still see where Boateng's frustration , anger and his actions stems from. My comprehension after reading the article tells me that , this isn't the first time Boateng has been at the receiving end of this evil menace. Though born in Germany to a white German mother , his African acestory owed to his Ghanaian father couldn't have made it any tougher to play in Germany. Hence I strongly believe he's been abused racially over the years. My beleive is that his recent actions are not just a result of that incident but rather a combination of previous unpanished abuses .

    FIFA to me has been a failure when it comes to racism . I don't think punishing clubs will eradicate the problem but rather i believe stronger and stricter punishment of culprits would be a panacea. As a loyal fan of Manchester United , i don't think it is justified to punish Man U or ban innocent and moral fans from attending any games. But rather i believe life bans for the racist few is highly justified.

    January 8, 2013 at 1:39 am | Reply
  20. zimmerman

    how can blatter still hold the post as his involved with psg.

    January 8, 2013 at 8:48 am | Reply
  21. Bob

    i think you are all stupid

    January 8, 2013 at 2:14 pm | Reply
  22. Zahndr

    I was a Swiss first and then an American. I have both passports. I went to work in Switzerland for an american computer company in 1990. I experienced in the workplace racism in stores because I spoke english, and then in other places on the street. Yes, I speak Swiss German and French and Yes, when I used these languages I was less discriminated. But my company was american and I was told to go back to the USA. I did. Racism blooms in Switzerland, Germany and Europe. I felt it, I experienced it and it does not feel good. When can we stop racism here in the USA?

    January 8, 2013 at 4:02 pm | Reply
  23. Tomás

    The "walk off" law that boateng propose is an absolute imbecility.. how can i be sure if they don't use that law to skip a difficult game?? if you walk off... you lose... that simple.. you can make other things to combat racism, but not that law

    January 9, 2013 at 7:44 pm | Reply
  24. Nnoruka Udechukwu

    How does it feel being abused, ridiculed, and sniggered at by the very audience you are straining every muzzle to please and entertain ? Think about it before you condemn the one who walks off.

    January 10, 2013 at 7:30 pm | Reply
  25. wannabefurious

    Reblogged this on wannabefurious.

    January 14, 2013 at 5:59 pm | Reply
  26. rsanchez1990

    Soccer fans are so racist, especially the EUROPEAN soccer fans! Ain't gonna see that with American professional sports.

    January 18, 2013 at 10:57 pm | Reply
  27. Football?

    Sadly, when I read this story I thought we were talking about FOOTBALL, not this crap we call soccer... Lets get real people, It's Soccer, no one watches or cares about it!. There, I've said it, and millions of Americans can't be wrong. Don't use the name FOOTBALL when it comes to over grown sissy men (White or African American) kicking a ball into a net. That's not a game, it's an insult to the fns on the NFL.

    January 19, 2013 at 9:23 pm | Reply
  28. Arthur Brede

    Blatter has to go. He may have been a good organiser in his day (I don't know – he must be where he is for something!) but he has turned into a stupid contrarian, turning down or dragging his feet on every suggestion to improve the game – goal-line technology not the least of them. And his attitude towards the British is nothing short of idiot chauvinism (the only word to express white-on-white racism). Whatever the rights and wrongs of walking off – and I tend to think, like others on this thread, that it lends power to the racists – he should have addressed it in less harsh language. If there's one thing that will wear away racism, it is time – time spent thinking before reacting, time spent in steady resistance to the thugs, time for fans to get behind players of colour who work for our teams.

    And a parting thought – hats off in absolute admiration to the black players who endure Russian and Middle European 'fans' week after week in the various leagues. They earn every cent they make, twice over!

    January 20, 2013 at 10:35 am | Reply
  29. Dr. Cajetan Coelho

    Footballers from Africa are taking the Beautiful Game to the next and a higher level on our Planet. Here in Goa we have African footballers playing for Sporting Clube de Goa, Clube Vasco da Game, Sesa Goa, Salgaocar, Churchill Brothers and Indian League champions and Asian powerhouse Dempo Sports Club. In Bengal we see top African stars at Mohamedan Sporting, Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Prayag United. Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore too display African flavor year after year. Our Indian fans love watching footballers from Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Cameroon and Congo.

    January 28, 2013 at 6:32 am | Reply
  30. Maphumulo Mthokozisi

    This issue is very serious . A football is a very professional kind of sport you will ever see . There are more intelligent people who are highly paid . That may include police , security , coatches and even committees. It still remain to be a greatest embarrassment to figure out what should make someone who a spectator to abuse a player , but it is a fact that people outside of the field do harrass players. I think it a matter of lack of professional manners to our people .People must be trained to learn to respect their football stars . I have never seen a player getting dissatisfied so as to throw a bottle of water in the ground . But the great house do that to its people . The players are also part of the racism issues which are continuing to prevail in the sport fields .There was once a time on which people were taught to humble down before their own masters . But if you do not respect even your couch , you might never respect any other person indeed. This thing can creep for some number of years and it might be not a suprise to say one might end up abusing himself . Could you not agree that players who have lot self respect spectorate others infront of mllion viwers and the offmatch spectotors who are at their own home. But a question left is the one concerning , what initiative should be brought foward to intervene in restoring respect and the saftey of people's lives in the football sportgrounds. Well the solution A is alwas to increase security right from the main enterance . It does not sound good to allow the excessive use of alcohol before the match begins . People use some of the containers having been left after a dring to harrass players , referees and eve their own coaches .I am the former head of coaches at University of Natal Howard College . I do experience harrassment in the sportfield . But I feel people with no that much higher level of pride , self importance but with low level of respect and proffessional manners are liable to loose temper and thus cause disruption. People who have been harassed ( any kind of harrassment , it might be racism , stone and bottle etc) have got a chance to report to the referee. However players need to realise that their safety of their lives relies on their own level of reputation . If you are more prevalent with swearing , fighting and or diregarding your couch : things might turn against you . Football is very sexy at least to myself . But if you have lost temper even before you enter the game , you might end up doing things which may yield symptoms of madness to other people. In other hand you as a player need to be fully aware that : whilst you are playing a football , how 'well or bad' might send some instinct to other people about how employable you are even to some other countries to which you might need to go and enhance your football profession . But if your history reveal you as scoundrel , racist and a rude player : well ..it is very possible that your record might be spoilt for ever . Indeed it is very evident that a respect can restore order upon our people. I cannot figure out what might have driven a firs t man to move to the space , except that he had a vision not only to see but also to stand beyond the limit – far off distanced areas such as the moon . We might never realise what life brings to us . Let us not enter inside of our sportfield with our previous historical mentalities but let us learn to watch our silver lining. Our memories must remain young .. so that our profession may be enabled to grow foward . I still beleave that anything that excite our bodies does also excites the creator of the whole universe . By this I am not aiming to deliver any Gospel withing our sportfield but I am leaning to appease you down . You have suffered a lot from phcychological wars and now you bring it inside wrong spaces at wrong time. The world is pretty much unlimited for you . Perhaps the hunger , hatred and lack of skills have spoilt you reputation . But here is a renewn promise to you ... never stop to carry your dreams foward . Just tel yourself that you are leaving a normal life and let the fire of love of your profession , tolerance and success enter your mind . Tell yourself tha the ghinderances in front of yourself are little wonders . As a matter of fact you shall have set a record on which the future generations will have to stamble upon if they are to live their designated lives . Who else knows , today is one world and one sun and maybe tommorrow it two, three or even trillions of world in different suns . If so , why would you let those who have laid down wrong misleading assumtions to rule your lives .
    Indeed life was never nor any mistake . And the fact that you are a football super star means that you had a gift and a talent as a calling to play a crucial role model in that field . Therefore begin a new struggle on which you will serve with concious mind . Before I may end this letter , it is upon my deepest willing to share pains with those who have suffered racism with sport ground . It is time to pick up and go . Life will alwas go foward no matter what may other people feel about you . You might think you are disadvantaged , dumped or unwelcomed . But you might also be very suprised to discover that there are millions and millions of people who are on your side . And those who look you down are those who are seeking to discourage your visions .
    It is also my great honour to wish all African countries a very happy beginning and ending of their AFCON. I wish that their spirits may also gide them to their first ever wonderful hosting os such spectacular event . Congratulations to all of businessmen who got access to represent their own market in that moment of business extraveganza . It is possible that this might not be the first and or last time on which South aAfrica may earn such as prestige opportunity to be rendered an opportunity to host such a spectacular event . But all that would turn to be meaningless if people who reside in that country have no ability to show love , tolerance and affection to tourists who come to represent economic growth in South Africa . Let us learn to fear and respect our own occupation. The current reports on the FIFA World Cup are showing that South Africa had successfully hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup. If people on the new South Africa have to progress with their ego they shall need to begin to treat even less small matters seriously . They can only arrest serious issues if they are united. People united can never be defeated by their own problem . We shall never forget that we are in the world on which are continous competitions over opportunities . Therefore in as much as we are willing to sustain our economy , we shall learn to put people's safety and security issues first before we may think of any other issue . Thankyou ver much

    January 28, 2013 at 10:43 am | Reply
  31. Wrathtard

    I didn't know you could submit a post so long! Wow!

    January 30, 2013 at 12:38 am | Reply
  32. rajiv

    We have on one hand kpb and on the other american altidore, who was abused a few days ago and reacted very differently. He insisted the game go on and said the racist are sick people who need help and that he was raised better than to be provoked by racist and morons. So which is the better course? HArd to say. Both takes courage to do. I mean a strong black woman called Rosa parks on a bus in america stood upto racism all those years ago, when it was not even fashionable to do so, when popular opinion (unlike today) supported the vile practice of racist behavior. I guess it comes down to the individual, what you believe and how strong you are as a person to deal with it. The only WRONG thing in all this are the racists, and like any other form of abuse they need to be punished. Mental assault should be treated in the same way as physical assault and given severe punishments. On a side note, blatter is an idiot, a dinosaur, a throwback to a different age who cant understand modern attitudes and probable sees nothing wrong in racism perse either.

    February 2, 2013 at 1:35 pm | Reply
  33. Loveunited2015

    Very critical issue .

    February 16, 2013 at 6:37 pm | Reply

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