The specter of a racism investigation by FIFA is becoming all too familiar
After this last international break we witnessed another incident. French players were allegedly greeted with monkey chants during their friendly 3-1 win against 2018 World Cup host Russia. The friendly was being played at the Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg.
This should not be happening, but, then again, this is not news
There is a part of the Russian culture that has bred racism, especially in soccer. In the news report about one incident you will find a tidbit about another. Such as the recent disciplinary proceedings by UEFA against Zenit St. Petersburg.
This incident came a week before for racist chants during a 2018 Europa League match. The opponent was RB Leipzig who they drew with, 1-1 at the Krestovsky Stadium.
I did not have to look beyond my own memory for another example. In the moments after reading these allegations I thought back to the manifesto written by Zenit ultras. Calling for their team to get rid of “non-Europeans and sexual minorities.”
Classifying the lack of black players as an “important tradition, which emphasizes the identity of the club.”
Zenit’s former Brazilian forward, Hulk, described the racism in Russia as an every day occurrence on the pitch. The abuse would come from supporters and referees. He would strangely backtrack these statements two years later after leaving the club.
Former Arsenal player Emmanuel Frimpong was sent off for his reaction to similar abuse. The fans of Spartak Moscow racially abused the player according to his comments to the media. He would later state, poignantly, in a series of tweets, the shame in holding a World Cup in Russia.
More recently in January there was the tweet from Spartak Moscow’s verified account. Which featured a video of some black players warming up. The quote accompanying the video stated, “See how the chocolates melt in the sun.”
With every tweet and every chant comes a new reminder
The fight against racism is not over. It may never be over and patches on the side of kits have not been enough.
While UEFA may be doing its part by investigating each allegation. Until countries take ownership of the change in their cultures, we will continue to talk about bananas and coins on a pitch. Rather than the tactics and the team selections.
And while the world is appalled when reading these allegations, come June the world will be watching intensely and waiting, anxiously, for the specter to rear its ugly head once again.