West Brom fans will today display a banner in support of Osaze Odemwingie after the striker received a sick racist taunt from ‘supporters’ at his former club Lokomotiv Moscow. Baggies fans will have a created a banner which will read “Thanks Lokomotiv”.
The touching gesture is in retaliation to the “Thanks West Brom” banner that featured a banana image. It demonstrates just how far the English game has come over the last 30 years. Football in England has come that far that most of us are sickened to hear any form of racism in a football ground.
Odemwingie himself admits that although racist behaviour is only committed by a select few, Russia does have a problem. He told BBC Sport: “Some fans treated me well – only a group of supporters have shown how narrow minded they are to the world.
“Coloured players feel the open racism there and I recall a game against CSKA Moscow when their fans started the sick noises – I wouldn’t have any of it and gave it back to them.
“This was widely publicised because photographers had shots of my protest but still nothing was done to curb it. Sadly, it’s a picture of a minority group in Russia – it really makes you feel sick but that is what it is. “
Thankfully Odemwingie should be safe from the racist taunts at West Brom. I look back to England’s clash with Spain in 2004, which saw Ashley Cole and Shaun Wright Phillips on the end of disgusting and unacceptable chants from the home crowd. I think that was the night when I really realised just how far the English game was ahead of most.
But FIFA just don’t act on these incidents. The Spanish Football Federation were fined £44,750 for their fans actions that night, a punishment that in the multi-million pound world of football is nothing short of laughable. Similar incidents have happened across Europe, most notably in Italy, but yet again FIFA have handed out feeble punishments, which barely cover the crime.
Now FIFA has the opportunity to act once again, but my betting is that they don’t. If Russia host the World Cup after a sickening display of racism like that, it would be a complete sham, and a disgrace football.
Of course I want England to host the World Cup, but even if we weren’t bidding to host the 2018 tournament, I would be outraged at FIFA’s continued tolerance of racist behaviour. Hopefully FIFA finally make a stand, but I won’t be holding my breath just yet.