An English fan had his ear bitten off by another English fan in a racially motivated attack at the Uruguay Game. FIFA have to my knowledge not reacted. It seems to be the case that the guy who filmed the attack, and repeatedly tells the victim that they’re going to find who did it and ‘put him down’, went on to cynically sell the footage to Sunday People. Stewards led the attacker out but he has not been detained or identified. Police reportedly went to the Costa Rica game to see if the attacked was there and could be identified.
There are also pictures of supporters’ flags featuring Celtic Crosses hanging at the tournament. It’s clear that although FIFA likes to wax lyrical about its opposition to racism, they do not take reasonable attempts to ensure and enforce the creation of an anti-racist space. Reasonable steps would be not letting people in blackface through the turnstiles or detaining or getting details of a racist attacker. I’d like to pre-emptively say that understaffing is not a fair excuse. There are crowds of people protesting in the street because the World Cup is not benefitting the Brazilian people and the government are pouring money into the WC instead of benefits and healthcare. FIFA spent almost ONE BILLION dollars on high-tech armed security designed to lock down threats from the local population who are out in protest. Moreover, I have been to enough international away games to know someone – whether steward or polis – would have seen those guys in blackface as they were going into the stadium and could have stopped them. Surely FIFA can be checking flags on the international stage that is the World Cup. I don’t like or condone the polis checking flags in Scotland but if people were bringing flags with far right and racist iconography into a football ground in Scotland I would expect the police to react and I’d condemn them if they did not.
Fifa’s spokesperson Delia Fischer said ‘We do not respect any discriminatory messages’. But that doesn’t really measure up to their ‘anti-racist’ position: Say No To Racism! You may not respect discriminatory messages but you are also providing a massive stage for those messages to be broadcast. The BBC coverage cynically pans around women in the crowd flashing black face and Celtic Crosses onto ‘our screens’. FIFA are not creating and providing a safe, antiracist space within the World Cup stadiums. Unless you actively oppose it, you can’t really describe yourself as anti-racist. There’s a difference between saying no to racism and sweeping it under the rug. They weren’t slow to respond to Suarez taking a chunk out Chiellini’s shoulder (allegedly). They have done nothing as of yet about the man who lost an earlobe in the crowd during that same match in a racist attack.
Realistically there is little FIFA can do in an investigation of fans in blackface after the fact. It’s just a ploy to brush it under the rug and move on. The antiracist response would be to immediately react by issuing guidelines about admission, making changes to the way the stadiums are policed so that you don’t have the same thing happening again. They could redeploy some of the cutting-edge riot police from the streets into the stadiums.
FIFA’s retrospective investigation doesn’t give me the feeling that they want to stamp racism out of football, as they elsewhere claim. I just get the sense that it’s no that big a deal.
Ethics and politics are but slogans and adverts to the kings of commerce. The only concrete reality is the clinking of coins. Anyone at this point in time who doesn’t think FIFA are ran like the mafia, and who believes their social policy sloganeering has anything behind it other than market research is living under a rock.
The message that I take from this is that organizations are unlikely to make their commercial spaces effectively antiracist; the people who use them need to make those spaces antiracist.