Only Heysel Like Pain Will Kick Racist Behavior From Soccer

Yesterday, during a friendly match between AC Milan and Pro Pratia, Kevin-Prince Boateng kicked the match ball into the stands and walked off the field followed by his AC Milan teammates.  The reason, for the 25 minutes they were on the field a very vocal minority of Pro Pratia fans racially taunted the black AC Milan players until Boateng had enough and lead his teammates off the field.

Unfortunately, this is not something new to European soccer.  In fact it happens with enough frequency that UEFA, European soccer’s governing body, has a program called Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE).  FARE’s sister organization Kick It Out, based in the Barclay’s Premiere League, has come under recent scrutiny for what many black English players see as ineffectiveness.

If Kick It Out, FARE, or UEFA really want to deal with racism in European soccer, organizing protests and wearing t-shirts is not going to help.  Neither is having the players of a major power like AC Milan walk out of a friendly (exhibition) match against a fourth tier Italian club.

To make any real dent into racist actions taken by fans, UEFA needs to step back in time and repeat what it did on June 2, 1985.  That day, after the Heysel Disaster/Riot occurred because of Liverpool hooligans ostensibly in Heysel to cheer for Liverpool against Juventus in the European Cup Final, UEFA said enough.  The continent as a whole was tired of drunken English hooligan armies rampaging through the European.  So, they banned all English soccer clubs from any international competition for five years and Liverpool for ten years.

During that time the English Football Association and the British government fixed English soccer (improving playing grounds and tracking hooligans like terrorists) and laid the groundwork for what has now become the biggest sports league in the world.

If UEFA and FIFA really wanted to keep racist taunts from fans out of the sport, they would implement Heysel level punishments for the teams and soccer governing bodies involved.

For American sports fans, think of it like this: If a college football/basketball team were caught in major violations, not only would that school receive a post-season ban, but all the other teams in that conference would receive a post-season ban.  Also, it isn’t just a post-season ban, it would be a ban from playing anyone outside your conference during regular season also.  So, not only would the schools lose out on post season money they would lose out on the ticket money from big regular season games.  Now add about three zeroes onto the amount of money those schools would lose and you get why this would be an effective deterrent.

A five-year ban for the other teams in the country as well as a ten-year ban for the offending club would make a real difference.  It would only take one for everyone in Europe to get the message.  The moment you start hitting people’s pocket books, they get real attentive real quick.  This is also, not about eliminating racism.  You cannot govern how and what people think, but you can govern how they act in public towards others.

Just so you don’t think that I have this idea that the US is past it’s racism, this was posted by Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) on Twitter just this morning.

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