It’s certainly not the first incident this year, and even more certainly – not the last.
Sunday’s London derby between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur was tainted by a monkey gesture allegedly directed at Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger.
You can watch Rudiger’s reaction below:
The incident occurred after a clash in the 62nd minute with Tottenham’s Heung-Min Son, after which Son was sent off. On Monday, a Chelsea fan was arrested after he responded by racially abusing Son.
The event sheds light on various occurrences across Europe that have overshadowed the results of long-awaited matches. Chelsea’s manager Frank Lampard was facing his old coach, Jose Mourinho, and defeated his team 2-0. But the racism endured by Rudiger and Son has taken the front page instead.
On December 7, a fan’s racist comments said towards Manchester United center midfielder Fred during their match against Manchester City overshadowed the Citizen’s stunning defeat at the hands of the inconsistent Red Devils. In Italy, Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan) and Mario Balotelli (Brescia) have reported that racist comments have been directed at them during matches.
As the comments occur more and more often, people around the world begin to question the virtue of the sport. It is especially saddening seeing as these occurrences are happening during and just after the Premier League’s “Rainbow Laces” campaign, which was unveiled for the first time this year and created to allow all non-binary fans and players feel welcome in the sport.
However, various players and coaches have attempted to battle back. Tottenham looked into the incident with Rudiger but was unable to find any conclusive evidence. Spurs manager Jose Mourinho said that such a thing would not be tolerated:
“I don’t have much to say other than it’s something that saddens me. I hate racism in society. I hate racism in football”
– Jose Mourinho, Spurs manager
Antonio Rudiger called for action to be taken by the Tottenham staff against the fans. With the large number of fans present due to the importance of the match, security footage was unable to determine which fan had made the gesture. However, the club vowed that a more thorough search will follow, and if any conclusive evidence is found, the fan would be banned and fined and most probably tried in court. The British government has stated that if no action is taken by the club or league, they will begin their own investigation of the situation.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola also spoke out after words were hurled by his fans at United midfielder Fred during the Manchester Derby in Matchweek 16. He said that he would support any movement by his players to walk out against racists.
Referee Anthony Taylor handled the situation very well, following all Premier League protocol. Both coaches and captains were informed and play was stopped to address the incident. Additionally, a statement was made over the stadium speakers for all fans to hear.
All in all, as the incidents pile up, the very integrity of the sport is being questioned. After their “Rainbow Laces” campaign for equality for all genders, the Premier League is noticeably disappointed to see fans behaving in such a manner towards players of different races.
So what can be done to solve the issues?
With the situation getting out of hand, it is clear that the FA and even possibly the government will need to step in.
Some say it should be mandated that all stadiums are equipped with a certain level of security, which includes cameras and microphones that can identify fans and detect where sounds are coming from.
However, there are problems with this system. There are levels of privacy that may be breached when placing microphones such that it is possible to hear fans. Therefore, I believe that all stadiums should at least have cameras, and attempt to find a way to utilize microphones.
For hundreds of years, football was a way to bring people around the world together. But now, can we say the same? Unfortunately, the answer seems to be no.