Balotelli is right – players should walk off the pitch if racially abused

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Football has been too tolerant of racism

Football. You know – the beautiful game that has the power to bring together (almost) all of humanity in a joyful expression of gentlemanly and gentlewomanly competition.

Except that this does not seem to be what’s on offer. Fans, raised to paroxysms of tribalism, throw bananas on the pitch at the Italian player, Balotelli; they still chant “yiddo, yiddo…” when their teams play Spurs a traditionally Jewish London club. And behaviour on the pitch is hardly exemplary – the man who would otherwise be the England captain is up for disciplinary hearings on charges of racism. This debate is not about whether the racism is acceptable. It isn’t. But it’s about how football – the institutions – and footballers – the people – ought to behave in the face of its regrettable presence. Is it the responsibility of the individual player to make a stand, as Balotelli has said he will? Or is that short sighted and bad tactics – if you make every simple pleasure the occasion to brow-beat miscreants into political correctness, aren’t you simply inviting a backlash? Better to leave it to the football authorities, maybe. They have a process in place. Indeed, they say they’ll sanction any player who acts autonomously. Or are they so compromised by their obscure – some would say corrupt – machinations that to talk of their social responsibility is like asking for compassion from a shoal of piranhas?

Ahead of the Euro 2012 Final, we teamed up with Google for a Versus debate on racism in football.

Join the Debate on our Versus page




Femi Otitoju Equality campaigner, founder of Challenge Consultancy

Musa Okwonga – Poet and sportswriter

Anthony Clavane – Journalist and Writer



Louis Saha – French international and Tottenham Hotspur footballer

Andrey Kurkov – Ukrainian Author

Philippe Auclair – Football writer and broadcaster



Jenni Russell – Journalist, commentator and broadcaster



Liz MacKean – BBC Newsnight correspondent