By Evangeline Jennings
On May 31st, in Mauritius, FIFA Member Associations approved the Anti-Racism and Discrimination resolutions proposed by the governing body’s newly-formed task force, which is chaired by FIFA Vice President, Jeffrey Webb. Their boast was that the implementation of these resolutions in every region and every country where football is played would bring universality to the mechanisms that combat racism and discrimination.
In his speech, Webb told his audience: “Let us all show the world that the football family is committed to continuing its evolution into an anti-discrimination, multi-cultural organization that promotes positive role models to society.”
Webb’s boss, FIFA President, Sepp Blatter, also stressed the importance of the fight against discrimination. “There have been despicable events this year that have cast a long shadow over football and the rest of society,” he said. “I am speaking of the politics of hate – racism, ignorance, discrimination, intolerance, small-minded prejudice.”
The resolutions agreed say that the following measures will be implemented on a global level in football:
- Education – competition organizers shall establish a concrete action plan, showing their intention to fight all forms of racism and discrimination among their players, officials and supporters.
- Prevention – competition regulation shall foresee a specialized official to be in the stadium to identify potential acts of racism or discrimination with the aim of easing the pressure on referees and facilitating the availability of evidence for the judicial bodies to take decision.
- Sanctions – will be mandatory and harmonized.
So far so good.
Blatter has a very limited understanding of his own organization’s code of conduct and considers racism the only form of discrimination that requires attention. “We can send a strong signal to the racists that their time is up. The ball does not discriminate and neither should we.”
I don’t pretend to understand the finer points of FIFA politics – though I suspect FIFA will do whatever extends Blatter’s power and bank accounts the most – but disgrunted FIFA members have been heard to complain that the “African agenda” is being given preferential treatment by Blatter. No surprise then that the marvelously named Tokyo Sexwale, South Africa’s current Minister of Human Settlements and representative of the Mandela Foundation, was invited to address FIFA members. “Football has a global platform that reaches millions of people around the world. Be careful in assisting these racist acts, I thank you for this opportunity not only in saying no to racism but also in taking a firm action.”
South Africa is, of course, the proud home of the Corrective Rape for lesbians. And although the South African Constitution and legal system ensure a theorectical equality, the reality is different in much of the country. A U.S. Department of State’s 2010 Human Rights Report concluded that “the LGBT community was subject to societal abuses including hate crimes, gender violence targeting lesbians, and killings.
“But,” you say in a whiny little bitch voice to your computer screen as you read this, “what does that have to do with FIFA and football?”
Well. You may have heard that FIFA decided to award the 2022 World Cup to oil rich Qatar. As a football fan who has attended two World Cups, I believe there are so many things wrong with that decision that we don’t have time to go into them all, but one of them is the fact that homosexuality is illegal in Qatar.
Homosexual Philippine workers are prohibited from working in Qatar.
An American citizen visiting Qatar in 1995 was sentenced to six months in prison and 90 lashes, for homosexual activity.
And the Qatari Penal Code currently punishes sodomy with between one and three years in prison.
Clearly, Qatar is one backward motherfucking nation that discriminates on the grounds of sexuality. Queer football supporters and footballers will be liable to prosecution and punishment if they express their sexuality during their stay. But that’s OK. Because Qatar has lots of money. And FIFA is getting paid.
In 2010, when Qatari bought the 2022 World Cup, Sepp Blatter attempted to laugh off the decision to take the competition to a country where homosexuality is illegal. After all, he said, the law won’t be a problem if they keep it in their pants. No, seriously, he did. “I would say they should refrain from any sexual activities.”
Subsequently, he claimed that FIFA did take homophobia seriously and that he expected the problem would be gone by 2022. I think it’s pretty obvious that the only problem that may be gone by 2022 is the 77 year old Blatter.
John Amaechi, the first NBA star to come out was having none of Blatter’s self-serving bullshit. “With little more than an afterthought, FIFA has endorsed the marginalisation of LGBT people around the world. Anything less than a full reversal of his position is unacceptable and if the FA and football and sporting associations around the world fail to acknowledge this insult, they too will be complicit.”
Now fast forward to 2013 and the announcement in Mauritius of the Anti-Racism and Discrimination code of conduct. Questioned on how this might affect the World Cup in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal, Sepp Blatter was once again dismissive. Speaking about gay fans and players hoping to attend in 2022, he said: “What you are speaking about, I do not think it is part of racism, perhaps this is going into ethics and morals.”
“This, I think,” he continued, “is not the time being to bring it now. If you bring it to my attention then I should have a look on that. But I cannot give you a definite answer.”
Two years ago, Blatter believed that there was no racism problem in football that could not be resolved by a handshake. Clearly now he has been convinced that racism is bad, mmmkay, most likely by the African voting block. However, this corrupt oaf now seems to believe that racism is the only form of discrimination that actually matters. And that the Qatari position on homosexuality is not discrimination because it’s not “a part of racism”, but a mere matter of local “ethics and morals”. And definitely not a human rights violation.
Football. It’s a funny old game.