Rio Ferdinand has criticised Uefa after European football’s governing body banned Nicklas Bendtner for one competitive fixture and fined the striker €100,000 (£80,383) for exposing sponsored underwear in Denmark’s European Championship defeat to Portugal last Wednesday.
Ferdinand, the Manchester United defender, wrote on Twitter: ‘Uefa are you for real??? £80,000 fine for Bendtner for underwear advertising…. all of the racism fines together don’t even add up to that?!
'Uefa are not serious… Platini was a great player but him & his colleagues alienate themselves with exactly this type of rubbish. If racism made money for Uefa like advertising does do you think Uefa would take it as serious?? #priorities'
catching up on UEFA’s approach to racism
Although there haven’t been any racism incidents rivaling the kind shown on Panorama's “Stadiums of Hate,” fairly credible reports of abuse against two black players have surfaced, and UEFA has had to take action. Czech player Theodor Gebre Selassie confirmed that he heard abuse during the Czech Republic’s match with Russia, although he did not file an official complaint. To my knowledge, Mario Balotelli either didn’t hear the taunts or isn’t saying that he did, but UEFA’s investigating abuse from Spanish and Croatian fans towards the Italian striker. The abuse at the Croatia match also potentially involved one banana thrown onto the pitch, but the evidence for that is a picture of a steward with a banana in his hand.
Things to note:
- To this point, Polish and Ukrainian fans have not been accused of any of this. Poland played the Czech Republic on Saturday, and no reports have surfaced. Ukraine played France (one of the teams with a large black contingent) on Friday, and no reports have surfaced.
- Is it simply a coincidence that the two players abused so far have been the only black players on their teams?
UEFA is making all the right noises, opening investigations, etc., etc. But the incredibly severe penalty (€100,000 plus a one-game suspension) assessed to Denmark’s Nicklas Bendtner for flashing underwear during his goal celebrations that had an unauthorized sponsor label on the waistband puts UEFA in a bad light. Recent penalties imposed on nations whose fans have abused players with racist taunts pale in comparison to Bendtner’s punishment.
One person who is taking a firm stance is Croatia’s coach, Slaven Bilic, who has categorically condemned the actions of Croatian fans.
I’ll be posting a series of responses to the disconnect between UEFA’s crackdown on sponsor violations and the organization’s more tepid penalties for racism.
One final note: The game with the most potential for racist fan ruckus is tomorrow’s match between England and Ukraine, for a number of reasons. The journalism that broke the story of racism in Poland and Ukraine was produced by the BBC. Like France, the England team also has a large number of black players. The match is happening in Ukraine and against Ukraine, so there’s the possibility that more of the fans who normally attend local club matches might attend this match. Similarly, English fans are streaming into the city: over the past few days, numbers have apparently doubled from a pretty meager 5,000. The match is also very high stakes: it’s the elimination round. Each team can go through if they win. Only England can go through on a draw. So the potential is there. Apparently there are posters plastered around Donetsk announcing Ukrainian hooligans’ intentions to fight. But really, there’s no way to know until we watch the match tomorrow.