England National Team player Rio Ferdinand said Wednesday that FIFA, soccer’s governing body, should take points away from teams whose supporters abuse opposing teams and their fans with the use of racial and homophobic slurs and obscenities.
Pretty serious stuff, for the world of sports. But he’s right. No one should be subject to that kind of verbal abuse. Just because their team is playing your team do self-restraint and dignity fly out the window.
Ferdinand is most upset that FIFA only penalized Croatia 15,000 pounds after fans abused an English player with racial chants during a World Cup qualifying match in September. Ferdinand contends that such a minimal fine is hypocritical to FIFA’s zero tolerance policy towards bigotry and racism.
And it is, fines only generate an environment of acceptance at a cost. Take points away from a team trying to qualify for the World Cup? That sends a message. FIFA should go a step further and publicly put the responsibility on the fans. Demonstrate that a point(s) will be taken, win or lose, should the visiting team feel it was targeted. Make Croatia the first example.
If fans understand they can really hurt their team’s ability to qualify or be responsible for their team missing the tourney all together, they’ll straighten up. But it’ll take time, and probably a lot of patience.
Hey, I’m as big a fan of of heckling as the next guy, but there are more clever ways to taunt an opponent than by lobbing hate and ignorance upon everyone around you.