FIFA’s President Gianni Infantino has called for worldwide stadium bans for fans and “automatic forfeits” for teams whose supporters hurl “abhorrent” abuse, following racist incidents at club matches in Italy and England.
The head of governing body the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) said on Sunday that there was no place for discrimination of any kind in the sport or wider society.
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“The events that took place in Udine and Sheffield on Saturday are totally abhorrent and completely unacceptable,” he said in a statement.
“The players affected by Saturday’s events have my undivided support.”
Fans aimed monkey chants at AC Milan and France goalkeeper Mike Maignan during Milan’s dramatic 3-2 win at Udinese, with the game temporarily halted.
In a strongly worded statement on X, formerly Twitter, the France team said: “You have all our support Mike Maignan. The FFF [French Football Federation] totally condemns all racist acts.”
France captain Kylian Mbappe also offered his backing to his international teammate.
“You are very far from being alone Mike Maignan, we are all with you,” wrote the Paris Saint-Germain star.
“Still the same problems and still NO solution. Enough is enough!!!!! NO TO RACISM” he posted on X.
“We need all the relevant stakeholders to take action, starting with education in schools so that future generations understand that this is not part of football or society,” Infantino said.
“As well as the three-step process (match stopped, match re-stopped, match abandoned), we have to implement an automatic forfeit for the team whose fans have committed racism and caused the match to be abandoned as well as worldwide stadium bans and criminal charges for racists.
“FIFA and football shows full solidarity to victims of racism and any form of discrimination. Once and for all: No to racism! No to any form of discrimination!”
On behalf of FIFA, Gianni Infantino, FIFA President, has made the following statement:
“The events that took place in Udine and Sheffield on Saturday are totally abhorrent and completely unacceptable. There is no place for racism or any form of discrimination – both in football…
— FIFA Media (@fifamedia) January 21, 2024
‘Something must be done’
At Udinese, referee Fabio Maresca stopped play during the first half and a livid Maignan stormed down the tunnel with his teammates.
Play resumed after about five minutes.
Maignan said something had to change as racist abuse has been part of football for too long.
“This shouldn’t exist in the world of football, but unfortunately for many years this is a recurrence,” he told Milan TV after confirming he heard fans making monkey noises.
“With all the cameras present and sanctions for these things, something must be done to change things.
“We all have to react, we must do something because you can’t play like this.”
Last week Lazio were hit with a one-match stand closure after supporters directed monkey chants at Romelu Lukaku during their team’s Italian Cup win over local rivals Roma.
Coventry midfielder Kasey Palmer accused Sheffield Wednesday fans of doing the same to him during their English Championship clash, which his team won 2-1 on Saturday as well.
Palmer labelled the abuse “abhorrent and wholly unacceptable”, with the match paused as the referee spoke to both managers on the touchline.
In a statement, Sheffield Wednesday said they were “shocked and saddened by the racist gesture from the stands” reported by Palmer.
“Both clubs roundly condemn any form of discrimination and abuse, and underline that there is no place for this kind of behaviour in football or our wider society,” the statement added.
“We will work together with the relevant authorities and anyone proven to be culpable will face the strictest possible sanctions from both Sheffield Wednesday and the law.”
Former England and Arsenal striker Ian Wright applauded the “solidarity” in the Milan side and urged teams to “keep walking off” when they hear abuse and called for stronger sanctions.
He wrote on X: “We did ‘playing through it’ and nothing has changed. Points deductions needed, the fines are pointless.”
However, Palmer admitted he was sceptical that things would change in the game, also writing on X: “Racism is a disgrace. it has no place in the world, let alone football.
“I’m black and proud and I am raising my three kids to be the exact same. I’ll be honest, it feels like things will never change, no matter how hard we try.
“Couple [of] fans doing monkey chants don’t define a fan base – I appreciate all the love and support I’ve received.”
— #KP45 (@kaseypalmer45) January 20, 2024