Do football and politics ever mix?

On 8th January 2010 rebels who had been fighting for the region’s independence shot the Togo national team’s bus at the African Cup of Nations.  Injuring several squad players and killing the bus driver, this was an example of politics and football clashing in tragic circumstances.

When talking about politics and football it can often bring yawns around a table, fortunately football politics is not about the next match David Cameron will be attending.  Of late there has been more involvement of politics in football than ever before and more topically racism, fascism and the seemingly never-ending Sepp Blatter leadership at FIFA.

Over the last decade there has been a large rise in action against racism, not because there has been an increase in racism but because action has finally been taken in greater severity.  This is no surprise with the way society has changed and a demand for equality has been called for.

Clubs with fans chanting racial abuse have been punished with fines, bad publicity and in the case of Mario Balotelli’s racial abuse from Juventus fans, handed a one match home fan ban.  Balotelli was subjected to further racial abuse from a Stoke fan, who was then banned for three years.  Action was taken here politically from both FIFA and The FA, however in the case of Zenit Saint Petersburg action has gone somewhat missing.  After two incidents of banana throwing against Roberto Carlos in 2011, Zenit’s official fan group released a manifesto demanding the club exclude all non-white and homosexual players from the club’s roster.  The club did respond stating they do not hold archaic views and recruit talented individuals no matter what the demographic.  It is clear however, that there needs to be political guidance in a situation like this.  Further action has to be taken in order to establish a state of equality, something that should be taken seriously.

FIFA is an organisation which is solely run under an umbrella of politics and caused controversy recently with Qatar successfully winning the role as hosts of the 2022 World Cup.  Two FIFA members were accused of accepting bribes for the Qatari bid and these allegations were tabled by Lord Triesman of the English FA.  An internal inquiry is ongoing and political debate surrounding the Qatar bid is still current.  Due to the country’s severe weather conditions a winter World Cup has been hinted at, a decision that could cause further controversy.  Given FIFA’s track record of long decision making which we have seen with goal line technology, it could be a while before we know if we have our first winter World Cup or not.

Very recently Paolo Di Canio caused a media frenzy by not answering whether or not he was a fascist.  The newly named Sunderland boss once said he was a fascist not a racist.  Di Canio has since distanced himself from his political ideologies stating that he’d rather be judged on his skills as a manager and performances from the team.  A correct move from Di Canio, this is a time where both he and Sunderland are very excited for the future.  Not a time where something that happened a long time ago should be brought up so seriously.

All of the cases mentioned are different ways in which politics and football mix.  Politics has a way of drawing a large amount of negativity from football, but in truth without it, football wouldn’t have order.  Political issues such as racism, homophobia and fascism should always be taken seriously, and should be dealt with in similar accordance.  As much as football is the beautiful game, behind the scenes there can be an ugly truth.

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