FIFA chief wants refs to stop football games when racism occurs

FIFA chief Gianni Infantino says ‘zero tolerance’ approach must be taken when racism happens in matches at all levels.

A “zero tolerance” approach must be taken over racism in football and referees at all levels must stop matches if such incidents occur, FIFA President Gianni Infantino has said.

Infantino met Real Madrid’s Vinicius Junior to discuss racism in the sport after the Brazil international spoke out when he was targeted by the crowd in Spain last month.

The FIFA chief labelled the racists “criminals” and said football authorities had to “shoulder responsibility”.

Vinicius, who is Black, has been the target of sustained racist abuse by fans in Spanish stadiums throughout the season, with little done by referees or football bodies to protect him.

Last month, Real Madrid filed a complaint with the Spanish State Attorney General’s Office claiming the racist abuse of Vinicius constituted a hate crime after the player was targeted during the La Liga defeat at Valencia.

“It’s very important not just to talk about racism and discrimination, but to take action in a decisive and convincing manner – zero tolerance,” Infantino said after meeting Vinicius and the rest of the Brazil squad in Barcelona.

“There is no football if there is racism – so let’s stop the games. The referees have this opportunity in FIFA competitions as we have this process for stopping the game, and actions have to be taken at every level, at national level as well,” Infantino said.

“It’s a football-related problem and we mustn’t look for excuses like: ‘It’s society’s problem, therefore, it’s fine in football.’ In the world of football, we must act in a very forceful way,” Infantino said.

“We want to identify racists in stadiums and across social media. They are criminals. They have to be banned from stadiums across the globe. The authorities need to take these people to court and we will say this to all of them. Racism is a crime,” he added.

Infantino said FIFA would set up a task force, with Vinicius taking a prominent role, to make specific recommendations.

FIFA created an anti-racism task force in 2013 after a notorious incident of abuse suffered in Italy by AC Milan midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng, who is Black.

Boateng worked with the task force which FIFA shut down in 2016, months after Infantino was elected.

FIFA said then the task force had “completely fulfilled its temporary mission”.

Shutting down the anti-racism panel had been “a monumental mistake,” one of its members, British-Nigerian journalist Osasu Obayiuwana, said on Twitter.

“Is this a frigging joke? @FIFAcom , at Gianni Infantino’s prompting, dissolved the FIFA anti-racism task force I was a part of from 2013-2016, despite my telling him, in July 2016, to strengthen it and give it teeth. FIFA said it had “accomplished its mission”. It’s taken them 7 years to realise that racism is still in football?”