Only A Game? - In Russia you just have to ‘put up with’ racism

Emmanuel Frimpong.
Emmanuel Frimpong.
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The red card received by Emmanuel Frimpong during a Russian league game between FC Ufa and Spartak Moscow recently was nothing short of disgusting.

If you watch the footage of the incident you will clearly hear fans making monkey noises each time Frimpong touches the ball. Understandably, Frimpong reacts and makes a gesture to the crowd and is then shown a straight red card.

Ireland fans celebrated last weekend when it was revealed Martin O’Neill’s men would compete against Wales, Georgia, Serbia and Moldova for a place in the World Cup Finals in Russia in 2018. Ireland have a decent chance of reaching the finals but until such times as Russia cleans up its act when it comes to racism and homophobia, I refuse to have anything to do with it.

How can anyone ever expect a nation like Russia to embrace equality for all human beings when it is rewarded with such lavish global events as the World Cup Finals, the Winter Olympics and the Russia Grand Prix?

It’s simply not acceptable for Fifa to award such a prestigious tournament such as the World Cup Finals to Russia when players like Frimpong are subjected to such regular and unabated racial abuse. It sends out the wrong message.

As a result of the incident earlier this month, Frimpong was banned for two matches and the team allegedly responsible for the chants, Spartak Moscow, escaped without punishment.

If the decision to punish Frimpong wasn’t enough to get one’s blood boiling then read what the FC Ufa general director, Shamil Gazizov, had to say.

“It was an unfortunate incident. There were people who could have shouted things. These are emotions which go away after the game. We are partners with the red and whites and are on good terms.

“What Frimpong did was wrong. Sometimes you even have to hold back the tears and just put up with it.”

Just put up with it? Really? I can’t convey to you just how unbelievably angry I was when I read this. Racism is not something anyone should ever have to “put up with.” Instead, it should be challenged and, where possible, punished severely at every opportunity.

Russia’s record when it comes to racism in football is nothing to be proud of. In February, football anti-discrimination group FARE documented more than 200 incidents of racist and discriminatory behaviour linked to Russian football over two seasons.

The evidence is there. The treatment of black footballers in the Russian league would not be tolerated anywhere else in the world so why does this culture of rewarding countries, with such transgressions exist?

The only answer I can come with is, money. The disparity between the rich and the poor in Russia is great. Be that as it may, some of the world’s richest people are from Russia and Vladimir Putin’s government abounds in allegations of corruption.

The only threat that will ever mean anything to the ruling elite in Russia is one that threatens to impact upon their bank accounts. Until such times as governing bodies like Fifa put equality and human dignity before money then countries like Russia will continue to host the most revered sports events in the world and athletes like Frimpong will just have to “put up with” racial abuse.