Those of you holding out hope that UEFA and/or FIFA will bring the hammer down on Serbia and the Serbia FA following the inexcusable, sickening and disgusting events that occurred during Tuesday's U-21 match should probably bring any and all expectations down several notches. Roughly 48 hours after those incidents, UEFA has handed down yet another slap on the wrist to a club after members of its fan base racially abused players.
It was announced on Thursday afternoon ET that UEFA's Control and Disciplinary Body has fined Lazio £32,500 ($52,000) following groups of the team's fans racially abusing Tottenham Hotspur players when those two sides met in a Europa League contest at White Hart Lane back on September 20. According to multiple stories, monkey chants were hurled toward Tottenham players Jermain Defoe, Andros Townsend and Aaron Lennon during the match. Such taunts could not be heard via the broadcast of the match that aired in the United States on FOX Soccer, but several reporters and fans at the Lane on that evening Tweeted about the abuse as it was happening. Multiple websites also posted stories about the racist taunts immediately following the scoreless game.
Fining clubs and football associations after fans have been found guilty of racially abusing players is hardly a new practice, nor is it one that has at all proven to be a deterrent. Bulgaria, Russia and Spain have all received fines in the past 22 months following similar incidents. Juventus, who play in Serie A along with Lazio, were fined multiple times during the 2011-12 European season.
Once again this calendar year, UEFA has sent a message regarding racist taunts that occur during international fixtures, and that message is clear: Racism isn't cool, but it's not nearly as bad as is wearing unapproved sponsored clothing. Nicklas Bendtner was fined €100,000 (over $125,000) and suspended for one match this past summer after he flashed boxers that contained the name of a bookmaker while playing for Denmark in a Euro 2012 match. Going on just the math and nothing else, one could reason that UEFA sees Bendtner's "crime" as being about four-times worse than what went down at White Hart Lane during the September 20 Europa League clash.
The racist abuse that Danny Rose endured during Tuesday's Serbia vs. England U-21 match is a story that has been picked up by news outlets from all over the world. That story has gone from unfortunate and sad to sickening and downright bizarre in the past 48 hours. On Wednesday, the Serbia FA essentially accused Rose of lying about the racist taunts just so he could justify his booting the ball into the stands after the final whistle. This was followed on Thursday by the Serbia FA releasing this video that "proves" Rose is lying about the whole ordeal, a piece of propaganda that would make the old Soviet Union proud.
Fans of Lazio, like Serbia football fans, have a history of such behavior. Fines have obviously not prevented groups of individuals in both fan bases from belting out racist taunts in stadiums. Will UEFA finally grow a spine and deliver a ban that Serbia deserve? If the "punishment" handed down to Lazio on Thursday is any indication, then probably not.
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- Tottenham Hotspur