Hooliganism and Racism In Soccer Is Still Alive and Well; It’s Time to Deal With It!

Hooliganism has long been a black eye on the sport of soccer. To many, it would seem as if it was something we read in the history books and doesn’t happen all that often. If this week has been any indication, there is still hooliganism and no one seems to be doing anything about it.

When one thinks of hooliganism, one of the most serious acts of hooliganism was the Heysel disaster. In May 1985, 39 (mostly Juventus) fans were killed when a group of Liverpool fans invaded a neutral section after fighting occurred between fans of both teams in a European Cup game. The invasion caused Juventus fans to retreat over a wall which collapsed. As a result, all English teams were banned from European competitions for five years. Liverpool received an additional year ban due to their fans being at fault.

That was 1985 and this is 2014 where it apparently seems as if no one should have to answer to their fans actions. This has all happened within the span of a week.

On Saturday, November 29, three Argentinian fans from a lower division team attacked the captain of their rival team Franco Nieto to death with a brick as his wife and one year old child watched. Franco’s nephew said, “People came to insult him. They kicked him and punched him. He tried to defend himself but he was struck violently in the head. He was operated on Tuesday [Dec. 2] and died today [Dec. 3].” According to the BBC, this is the 15th soccer related death in Argentina this year. While it’s only reported that three people have been detained, it’s very unlikely that the teams will be charged.

The next day, on Sunday, November 30, Atletico Madrid and Deportivo ultra supporters groups fought outside the stadium before the game resulting in injuries and a fan being killed due to being thrown in a nearby river. Both teams decided to ban their ultras groups from future games while the heads of La Liga are considering getting rid of the groups permanently.

On Thursday, December 4, midfielder Guelor Kanga of Gabon was racially abused during a game with monkey chants by opposing Spartak Moscow fans. Kanga responded to the chants by giving them the middle finger. As a result, the Russian Football Union banned Kanga three games and fined him $930 US. Spartak Moscow was fined $1300 for a charge having to do with fans cursing and not racism, which is more serious.

This is exactly the reason why hooliganism keeps happening. Organizations like FIFA and UEFA don’t have the guts to do today what they did 30 years ago when they banned entire countries from competitions. We constantly hear fans spouting racist chants toward players with no noticeable penalty. Yeah, UEFA and FIFA have a “Say no to racism” campaign but that is a bunch of Grade A bull. Handshakes, speeches and photo ops don’t do anything when it comes to ending racism and hooliganism in soccer. It’s especially hypocritical for FIFA to have the World Cup in Russia in 2018 due to their rampant history of racism, homophobia and violence.

You know what does end racism and hooliganism? Stop letting the teams self-police themselves. Stop these small fines that is the equivalent of us paying a parking ticket from a quarter we find in between a couch cushion. Stop penalizing teams with empty stadium games when everyone knows ticket revenue is a drop in the bucket compared to the TV revenue they do receive. Start hitting these teams where it actually does hurt. Go after the TV revenue, ban these teams from international competitions and have these teams miss out on TV money and prestige from Champions League. If it keeps up or if multiple teams from a country are guilty, ban the entire country. It may be extreme but it’s time these fans stop acting like ignorant children and start learning some real responsibility. Forcing these teams to miss out on millions and millions will mean that they will make a full effort to make sure they aren’t found guilty again. FIFA and UEFA are the parents, they better start acting like it.

(BBC/The Guardian/AS/Screamer/AP)

About Phillip Bupp

Producer/editor of the Awful Announcing Podcast and Short and to the Point. News editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. Highlight consultant for Major League Soccer as well as a freelance writer for hire. Opinions are my own but feel free to agree with them. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @phillipbupp