RIO DE JANEIRO — The words racism and soccer have seemingly become synonymous in recent years, as black players — and players of color, in general — in European leagues have dealt with racist chants and bananas being thrown at them during matches.
Sadly, the World Cup has just continued the trend.
FIFA issued a statement Sunday saying it was investigating pictures of fans wearing blackface during Germany’s game against Ghana on Saturday. Several of those fans were photographed and some even wore white T-Shirts with “Ghana” written on them. During the game, a Nazi-sympathizer rushed the field shirtless. His body had a neo-Nazi message drawn on it in black ink. Security at Estadio Casteleo did little to stop the field invader, who ultimately had to be ushered off by Ghana midfielder Sulley Muntari.
This wasn’t the first game in which racist World Cup fans found themselves on social media. During France’s win over Switzerland at Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador on Friday, at least three fans were spotted in blackface mocking the Afro-Brazilian and Caribbean religion Candomblé.
“We always take any evidence or submissions to our disciplinary committee. It is the disciplinary committee that will meet,” an FIFA spokewoman told The Guardian. “If they see any grounds they will open proceedings. Then it is up to the disciplinary commission to make the decision.”
FIFA’s after-the-fact reaction to these incidents does little to actually stem the tide of racism that’s currently plaguing the World Cup. Unless someone comes forward and gives names of the offenders, it’s going to be nearly impossible to find and punish guilty parties. But FIFA’s inability to stop these types of people from coming into the stadium or even policing them while in the stands sends a message of indifference toward racism and is an open invitation for fans to continue the behavior because they know there are no consequences.
In April, Barcelona defender Dani Alves, who plays nationally for Brazil, picked up a banana thrown by a fan and began to eat it on the field. His version of protesting prompted many prominent footballers such as Brazil’s Neymar and Argentina striker Sergio Aguero to post pictures with peeled bananas to express support for Alves and their objection to racism.
“We have suffered this in Spain for some time,” Alves said after the incident. “You have to take it with a dose of humor. We aren’t going to change things easily. If you don’t give it importance, they don’t achieve their objective.”
But ambivalence is not the solution. Racism is something that is prevalent all over the world and turning a blind eye or making a joke isn’t going to make it better. In truth, neither is policing it at a soccer match. However, at the very least, soccer’s largest governing body could make a better effort to rid the world’s game of such an ugly thing, even if it’s only for a couple of hours.
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