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African Players Threaten to Boycott 2018 World Cup Over Racial Strife in Russia

Photo by The Guardina.

Photo by The Guardian

African players, on the heels of racist remarks against Yay Touré in Moscow last week, could boycott the 2018 World Cup in Russia if the UEFA does not offer a strong response today to their concerns.

The UEFA, the governing body over soccer in Europe, is investigating Toure’s complaint and has to provide a convincing response to the players, he said.

“If we aren’t confident at the World Cup, coming to Russia, we don’t come,” the Ivorian midfielder said.

Touré, who plays for Manchester and who has reputation as an upstanding, clear-thinking man, claimed to hear monkey chants and other racial epithets chanted at him by hundreds of fans during a Champions League match.

He said he asked the Romanian referee to intervene and pointed to the captain’s armband that he was wearing. UEFA had designated last week as “Football Against Racism” week and his armband read: “No to Racism.”

The referee did nothing, according to Touré, further advancing Russia and other former Soviet Union’s reputation for tolerating racism.

The Central Sports Club of Army Moscow (CSKA) essentially claimed Touré made up the accusations. It said Touré was the only player to hear the alleged remarks. CSKA added that Ivory Coast forward, Seydou Doumbia, heard no racist chanting. Doumbia denied he had said that, but the quotes with his alleged remarks were posted on the Moscow team’s website.

European outlets describe Touré as a “quiet, thoughtful, a practicing Muslim” who lives a humble existence despite his star status. Touré once played for a club in Ukraine, and is familiar with the language and attitudes of that part of Europe. But he said he was surprised in Moscow at the venom spewed by hundreds of bare-chested, raucous white youths who had their right arms raised.

Piara Powar, executive director of European anti-discrimination body Football Against Racism in Europe (Fare) and a member of Fifa’s anti-discrimination taskforce, backed Toure’s stance.

He said to BBC Sports: “Yaya Toure is absolutely right in raising the spectre of African players or players of African heritage not going to the 2018 World Cup – and without them there will not be a World Cup in Russia. I wouldn’t blame them. In this era, players are the most powerful force and if all the players said they are not going there wouldn’t be a World Cup, or if there was it would be meaningless.”

 Still, the Russian club said in a statement: “Having carefully studied the video of the game, we found no racist insults from the fans of CSKA. On many occasions, especially during attacks on our goal, fans booed and whistled to put pressure on rival players — but regardless of their race. Why the Ivorian player took it as being directed at him is not clear.”

Further, Vyacheslav Koloskov, the honorary president of the Russian soccer federation, said Touré “dreamed up” the incidents in an attempt to discredit Russia because it won the bid to host the 2018 World Cup over Europe.

“If it were me, I would stop publishing these articles from England, and then it would stop,” he added and said that it was inappropriate for UEFA to even open an investigation into the claims.

“There would be no interest in this rubbish talk anymore.”

The New York Times said of the controversy: “UEFA’s control and disciplinary body has clear tasks on Wednesday. It must establish the facts, and stand up in a meaningful way for common decency.”

Belgian Jelle Vossen, told the Times: “In our squad, we have 10 different nationalities. The atmosphere in our dressing room is really fantastic.

“Everyone likes to play football, and if there are signs of racism, nobody should just accept it. We all have to fight together to kick it out of football.”

 

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