Thursday 15 June 2023, 13:45

Football must stop when there is racism

  • FIFA President met Vinícius Júnior, the Brazilian national team and the President of the Brazilian Football Confederation

  • Task force to be set up to make recommendations to FIFA

  • Gianni Infantino says football and authorities must take responsibility

Gianni Infantino has met Brazil and Real Madrid forward Vinícius Júnior, the victim of several shocking racism incidents while playing for his club this season, and sent a powerful message, saying that football cannot go on when there is discrimination. The FIFA President, who also met the Brazilian national team and the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) President Ednaldo Rodrigues, said that FIFA would set up a task force which will work with FIFA to make specific recommendations, with Vinícius Júnior taking a prominent role. Vinícius Júnior was racially abused by fans when Real Madrid played away to Valencia in May, the latest such incident in which the 22-year-old has been a victim.

"It's very important not just to talk about racism and discrimination, but to take action in a decisive and convincing manner - zero tolerance," Gianni Infantino said after the meeting in Barcelona, Spain. "FIFA is together with the Brazilian Football Confederation and with all the players in this fight. It’s important to introduce sporting sanctions and I congratulate CBF for having done so already." The FIFA President said it was imperative that match officials stop a match when players were subject to abuse. "There is no football if there is racism! So let’s stop the games," he said. "The referees have this opportunity in FIFA competitions as we have this process for stopping the game, and actions have to be taken at every level, at national level as well. Everyone has to understand this and we will go, together, until the end."

Gianni Infantino also said it was time that football authorities shouldered responsibility. “It’s a football-related problem and we mustn’t look for excuses like: ‘It’s society’s problem, therefore, it’s fine in football.’ In the world of football, we must act in a very forceful way."

The FIFA President, in addressing the entire Brazil national team who are in Spain to play a friendly match on Saturday against Guinea, explained that FIFA had introduced a social media protection service at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 to protect players from hate speech and emphasised that racists had to be identified and charged.

He said: "We want to identify racists in stadiums and across social media. They are criminals. We have to fight against them away from stadiums. They have to be banned from stadiums across the globe. The authorities need to take these people to court and we will say this to all of them. Racism is a crime. We will also strengthen the engagement with players on this crucial topic so I am glad Vinícius Júnior accepted to be part of a task force which will include other important players and will elaborate concrete and efficient measures to end racism in football once and for all." FIFA Council member and CBF President Ednaldo Rodrigues welcomed the idea of setting up a task force. "When you have the voice of the player defending his colleague, that voice becomes all the more powerful,” he said. “So that is why we praise this initiative by President Infantino, which reinforces the work that the CBF has done.”