Thursday 21 December 2023, 17:15

FIFA Legends support anti-discrimination initiatives at FIFA Football Summit

  • The FIFA Football Summit was held in Jeddah, coinciding with the FIFA Club World Cup 2023™

  • Gilberto Silva, Kaká and Alessandro Del Piero addressed attendees about anti-discrimination issues facing football players

  • FIFA has implemented the Social Media Protection Service and three-step procedure to address online and in-stadium discrimination

FIFA Legends Gilberto Silva, Kaká and Alessandro Del Piero have highlighted the need for action in relation to discrimination against football players in both real-life situations and online at the FIFA Football Summit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

“Nowadays, social media has been so tough for many people. In football, we see this a lot – for players, referees, football federations, the leaders, everybody, the fans,” said Gilberto Silva during a Q&A session where he spoke about his personal experiences and looked at methods to reinforce the fight against discriminatory behaviour in football. “Everybody's suffering with that but also young teenagers, young kids are suffering a lot of anxiety and mental problems due to the constant abuse they suffer. This has caused a lot of problems for them because they are losing focus. Together we can stop this as soon as possible: all of us here can do our part in stopping this online abuse.”

FIFA Legend Gilberto Silva during the FIFA Football Summit 2023

From an organisational perspective, FIFA has implemented a strategic programme since 2016 to embed respect for human rights in all operations and relationships. This led to the three-step procedure being implemented in FIFA competitions and was followed by FIFA launching the #NoDiscrimination campaign in 2021.

In advance of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, the Social Media Protection Service (SMPS) was established in partnership with FIFPRO to monitor and moderate comments on various online platforms as a next step in fighting discrimination. The SMPS service has now been used in eight FIFA tournaments, including the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ where it had a significant impact.

“It’s really important for the players to be ready physically, mentally, spiritually,” said Kaká. “So, when you see the criticism that comes – most of the time – from social media with hate, with discrimination, it affects the players in a bad way.

“So, sometimes, the confidence goes down and the players cannot perform well and we, as fans, cannot see the best from the players. So, it’s really nice that FIFA now has this programme to protect this environment so we can protect the players.”

FIFA Legend Kaka during the FIFA Football Summit 2023

Available for all players and coaches, the SMPS shields them from online abuse and hate speech by hiding abusive comments aimed at them and their followers. Through the service, FIFA reported almost 20,000 posts and comments to the relevant platforms, associations and authorities during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ and a further 7,000 during the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™.

FIFA’s three-step procedure, meanwhile, has protected players on the pitch since it was launched for the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017™. This includes a proactive stadium announcement before the match and a reactive stadium announcement without interrupting the match should a discriminatory incident occur.

If the announcements are unsuccessful – or if a sudden serious incident occurs – the three-step procedure is activated:

Step 1: Referees stop the match and stadium authorities read out an announcement to stop discriminatory behaviour

Step 2: Suspend the match with players returning to their change rooms for a specific period of time

Step 3: Abandon the match if the discriminatory behaviour does not cease, or if it breaks out again

“Sometimes people go over the top and need to face the consequences on this topic that is very important, like discrimination,” said Del Piero. “So, what we are doing every day, what all of the rest of the world are trying to do is very important from my point of view: trying to limit these things as much as we can, and, hopefully, eradicate it.”

No Discrimination