Kick racism out of soccer. Now.
This weekend, in the Milan derby played between Inter and AC Milan, Inter fans racially abused AC Milan’s Mario Balotelli throughout the game, waving inflated bananas at him, along with a continuous drone of racial taunts. The Italian striker, who this summer famously scored both goals for Italy in their 2?1 semifinal win over Germany in Euro 2012, played for Inter from 2006?10, and was up against his former club for the first time.
The chants did not come as a huge surprise, however, seeing as two weeks ago, Inter was fined 15,000 euros for racist chants directed at Balotelli in a match against fellow Italian team, Chievo. Fans were singing racial slurs at Mario without him even in the building. Not surprisingly, the laughable 15,000?euro fine levied on Inter after its match against Chievo did little to deter fans from singing the same songs when Balotelli came to play this past weekend.
Another case has come to light in recent weeks, also out of Italy. Lazio was fined 120,000 euros by UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) for their fans singing anti?Semitic songs towards North London club Tottenham Hotspur, known for their strong Jewish fan base, in a game played on Nov. 22. This came after Lazio had already been fined 40,000 euros for similar behavior in a game played at Tottenham earlier in the season.
Again, and not at all surprisingly, the paltry fine did absolutely nothing to stop the fans’ abuse. The fact that this is still such a widespread issue throughout European soccer is both shocking and disturbing. Clearly, something needs to change. Fining the club marginal amounts is not only insulting to the victims of abuse, it is completely unproductive. How many more cases will it take to demonstrate to those in charge that fans could not care any less if their beloved club loses a few euros?
Now is the time for UEFA and every league across the continent to finally take a hard stance against racism. No more tolerance can be allowed to these clubs and their fans. Their punishments must send a message strong enough to rid stadiums of such unacceptable behavior. Instead of fining the teams, the repercussions must fall on the fans who are culpable. An occasionally used punishment, and one used three years ago when Juventus fans racially abused Balotelli, is to force teams into playing behind closed doors, in front of an empty stadium.
While sending more of a message than a fine, the punishment still does not target those responsible. No, more severe measures are necessary for the guilty.
These people should not be given the privilege to attend matches of their favorite team, or any team for that matter. During games, any individuals singing should be identified by security, escorted from the stadium, and blacklisted from ever returning. If there are 100 abusive fans, then all 100 should be forced to leave. And if the club takes no such actions, then the governing body of the league should have the power to dock points from the team.
Such actions might seem too harsh, or logistically unrealistic, but we’ve reached this point because of an unwillingness to make hard decisions. Sure, teams could continue to receive fines, chastise the fans in the media, and vow to never let racism enter into the stadium ever again. But where does it end?
The way I see it, there is no end in sight if we keep the status quo. If UEFA, and the other governing bodies of soccer in Europe really care about ridding their sport of racial abuse, it’s time for them to do so. They have the tools. It’s time to start using them. It’s time to kick racism out of soccer.
Jason Schneiderman is a sophomore who is majoring in quantitative economics and computer science. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.