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Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012
UEFA's credibility hanging in balance
LONDON — We shall know on Nov. 22 how seriously UEFA takes racism.
That is the day disciplinary sanctions in the wake of appalling events in Serbia last Tuesday, where England's Under-21 players were the victims of racism in Krusevac as the visitors won 1-0 in the European Championship, will be announced.
If it is as keen to stamp out racism as it claims, UEFA must throw not just the book, but the whole library at the serial offenders from Serbia, whose blinkered, shameless version of events was a perversion of Lance Armstrong proportions.
There must be zero tolerance to racism, yet sadly too many in Serbia believe monkey chanting is little more than banter. They must be left in no doubt it is, in fact, a serious offense to insult a person because of the color of his skin and UEFA's punishment will either send out a categoric message that such vile behavior will see the national association banned or give a green light to carry on grunting.
It is no exaggeration to say the credibility of European football's ruling body is at stake because the outcome of the disciplinary hearing will determine whether their "No To Racism" campaign is merely lip service or they are belatedly prepared to dish out a punishment that fits the crime.
The all too predictable reaction of the Serbian F.A. acted as an endorsement for such demeaning behavior.
In a statement that could have been written by Comical Ali, they said: "The F.A. of Serbia absolutely refuses (sic) and denies that there were any occurrences of racism before and during the match at the stadium in Krusevac. And while most of the English team players celebrated the score, their player No. 3, Danny Rose, behaved in inappropriate, unsportsmanlike and vulgar manner towards the supporters on the stands at the stadium in Krusevac, and for that he was shown a red card."
Apart from being abused, Rose was also struck on the head by stones thrown by home fans, adding a new meaning to Stone Age behavior.
At the end of the game he was shown a second yellow card by the Turkish referee for kicking the ball into the crowd, though Huseiyn Gocak, showing perverse priorities, showed no red cards for the fighting between players and coaches.
UEFA will also open proceedings against both Serbia and England for the improper conduct of their players at the end of the match. Those found guilty must be punished but the most significant sanction will be the one given to the Serbian F.A. for the racist chanting they denied ever happened.
This is a chance for UEFA to show that racism will not be accepted and that offenders can expect more than a slap across the wrist.
After violence by Serbian fans forced the abandonment of a Euro 2012 qualifying match against Italy in Genoa last year, UEFA president Michel Platini said: "In case this violent incident should repeat itself by hooligans, the Serbian clubs and national team will be banned from all European competitions."
The game in Krusevac was not abandoned for a violent incident but there was violence of the tongue. UEFA must flex its disciplinary muscles and not simply send Serbia and its hooligans to stand outside the classroom.
If found guilty (and it is ludicrous to even consider any other verdict), Serbia must be hit with a minimum punishment of playing the next two games in the competition behind closed doors.
Five years ago the Serbian F.A. was fined £16,500 after its fans racially abused England players at a previous Under-21 game.
Serbia, a country where racism is entrenched, remains in denial about the monkey chants of thugs masquerading as supporters. UEFA must send out a warning that racism is not a minor offense and those like Serbia which continue to abuse black players will face a natural sense of justice — ground closure or a ban from competition, not a fine.
UEFA must not betray the promises of its Respect campaign, which says: "Racism and any other forms of discrimination will never be tolerated. UEFA will not tolerate violence either on the pitch or in the stands. Football must set an example."
A fine of £40,000 or any amount is no example. It is time for UEFA to prove discriminating against a player because he is black will really not be tolerated.
* * *
CHELSEA DISCIPLINARY news update: The Football Association fined Ashley Cole £80,000 for his abusive tweet aimed at the organizing body, the largest fine ever in relation to social media.
I estimate that over the past seven years the left-back known as Cashley has paid around £500,000 in fines to Chelsea and the F.A., plus the police (£1,000 for speeding and an £80 fixed penalty notice for swearing at a police officer).
However, Chelsea took no action against Cole for giving unreliable evidence to the John Terry tribunal.
Terry has decided not to appeal against the four-match ban and £220,000 fine imposed by the F.A. for racially abusing Queens Park Rangers' Anton Ferdinand. The former England captain apologized for the language he used during the game "although I'm disappointed with the F.A. judgment."
What judgment did Terry expect for a racial slur?
No punishment at all?
As predicted last week, Chelsea has decided to keep any disciplinary action private even though the offense was committed in public. We shall know the severity of any punishment if Terry leads the team out when the suspension has ended.
Christopher Davies was a longtime Premier League correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph.