Before their team played a Champions League match in Paris on Tuesday, a group of Chelsea FC fans prevented a black man from entering a metro train while proudly proclaiming their racism, another incident that shows efforts to combat racism in English and European soccer still have a long way to go.
“We’re racist, we’re racist, and that’s the way we like it, we like it, we like it,” fans of the English soccer club proclaimed as they repeatedly shoved the man off the train. The fans were on their way to Chelsea’s Champions League match against Paris Saint-Germain. Another traveler caught the incident on video (via The Guardian):
Chelsea fans prevent black man boarding Paris metro train – videoEdit descriptionembed.theguardian.comChelsea condemned the incident in a statement Wednesday, saying that it supported pursuing prosecution under English law and that the fans would face sanction from the club.
“Such behaviour is abhorrent and has no place in football or society,” the club said. “We will support any criminal action against those involved in such behaviour, and should evidence point to the involvement of Chelsea season ticket holders or members the club will take the strongest possible action against them including banning orders.”
The Football Association, English soccer’s governing body, issued a strong statement Wednesday, saying that it “fully supports Chelsea’s position in seeking to ban any of the club’s season-ticket holders or members who face criminal action in relation to these abhorrent scenes.”
The statement continued: “The FA, like the club, completely condemn such disgraceful behaviour which is a criminal offence and those responsible should face the strongest possible punishment.”
French prosecutors said they will work with British police to find the fans and investigate “deliberate racial violence on public transport.”
Tuesday was a particularly bad day for racism in European soccer, as an Italian paper also reported that Italy’s former coach said at an awards ceremony that the country’s national system now includes “too many colored players.”
“I’m not racist and my history as a coach shows that, but watching at the Viareggio Cup makes me think there are too many colored players,” Arrigo Sacchi, the former coach of AC Milan and the Italian national team, said over the weekend, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. “Business interests now come first. Italy has no dignity, it has no pride: you shouldn’t have squads including 15 foreigners.”
Sacchi later tried to say that he was misunderstood: “I have been misrepresented, how could I be racist? I just said I saw a game featuring a team who fielded four colored boys. My history speaks for itself, I always coached teams with different colors and I bought many, both at Milan and [Real] Madrid. I just wanted to point out that we are losing our national pride and identity.”
FIFA president Sepp Blatter tweeted about both incidents, saying, “I also condemn the actions of a small group of Chelsea fans in Paris. There is no place for racism in football!” Of Sacchi’s comments, he said, “Pride and dignity is not a question of skin colour. Shocked by Arrigo Sacchi’s comments. Stop it.”
Racism in European soccer — in England, Italy, and elsewhere — is nothing new. Black players have faced racism during World Cup, Champions League, and club matches in Russia, Spain, Italy, and other countries, from club executives, fans, and other players alike. During last year’s Champions League, for instance, fans of Russia’s CSKA Moscow chanted monkey noises at Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure, an Ivorian. In the past, racism has been such a problem that players like FC Barcelona’s Dani Alves have declared efforts to combat it “a lost war.”
Soccer’s governing bodies, including FIFA, the FA, and UEFA, the European association, have taken steps to eradicate racism at matches by requiring teams to play in front of partially-empty stadiums and handing out fines in response to racist (and, at times, homophobic or anti-Semitic) incidents.
In England, the FA has used the law to help target racism at soccer matches and handed match bans to players or fans who make racist statements. As a result, racism that was more prevalent at English matches in the past are less common now, though the Chelsea incident is another example, along with comments from Wigan Athletic owner David Whelan earlier this season, of the fact that such problems continue.
“Clearly it sends out a strong signal to, not only Chelsea, but the whole of football, that you cannot be complacent and think the actions you’re taking are sufficient to deal with the scourge of racism, sexism, homophobia and anti-Semitism,” Lord Herman Ousley, chairman of the FA’s anti-discrimination Kick It Out campaign, said in a statement. “We’ve got to do a lot more and not be complacent.”
On Thursday, Chelsea announced in a statement that it would suspend three fans from home matches at Stamford Bridge for their role in the incident. The suspensions could become lifetime bans if more information comes out.
“Chelsea Football Club is suspending three people from Stamford Bridge as a result of investigations into the incident on the Paris Metro on Tuesday evening,” the statement read. “If it is deemed there is sufficient evidence of their involvement in the incident, the club will issue banning orders for life.”
“We have received substantial information to date following our witness appeal and we are grateful to the many Chelsea supporters who have provided information so far,” it continued. “We also continue to cooperate fully with the Metropolitan and Paris police forces who lead the ongoing criminal investigation.”