Roma defender Antonio Rüdiger has asked Fifa to act on racism, after another season of several such despicable incidents in Serie A.
Rüdiger was racially abused by Lazio fans during an Italian Cup game in March. During the last season, Juventus defender Mehdi Benatia was even called a “shitty Moroccan” live on television. When Benatia was conducting a live interview with the Italian broadcaster RAI, he heard a technician saying in his earpiece: “What are you saying, shitty Moroccan?”
Talking about his plea to football’s governing body, Rüdiger said, “I take this very seriously because I cannot and must not ignore something like this. I am part of this too. Racism is a serious issue here.
“Incidents like the ones with Benatia and me simply happen too often in this country, and that is why something must happen now. When the Italian FA is not doing anything, then Fifa must act. It is easy to come up with the ‘No to racism’ campaign, but when you don’t do anything concrete, then that does not help.”
A month back, Pescara’s Sulley Muntari walked off the pitch after being booked for reporting racist abuse at Cagliari. The action was further compounded when Muntari was initially banned for walking off. That suspension was later rescinded.
Rüdiger taking this complaint up to Fifa is poignant especially since the governing body disbanded its anti-racism task force back in September 2016, “declaring the work complete”. Fifa wrote to the members of its task force saying that it has “completely fulfilled its temporary mission” and “is hereby dissolved and no longer in operation”.
A football anti-racism taskforce should ideally dedicate its time implementing measures to end the game’s association with bigotry; however, when the governing body takes a step like this, it sends out a very wrong signal. With the World Cup set to happen in Russia in 2018, there are concerns about the discriminatory behaviour in Russia.
Racism is a systematic problem which will need the help of officials and governing bodies but will equally need players to step up and demand the same. Rüdiger’s simple act of calling it out can prove to be a significant difference in football’s long-term fight against racism.