Thursday, April 8, 2010

An issue bigger than the game

With the World Cup being hosted in South Africa in less than 3 months the ugly issue of race relations in the country has become front and centre in the build up to the first game. The murder of white supremacist leader Eugene Terreblanche by farm hands earlier this week shed a light on the fragile relations between the majority black population, and the minority white farmers in the country. With the second largest sporting event in the world imminent, many questions have been asked about the fitness of the host country to deal with such an event.

As I alluded to in my first post, this is the first time since the end of Apartheid that South Africa will be opening its doors to host an event of this magnitude. It would be completely neieve to suggest that all has been fixed and forgiven from a truly dark time in history, if this was not evident before the actions both from the ANC youth league and the The Afrikaner Resistance Movement show things are not completely where Mandela envisioned.

One would hope these seemingly outside issues would not affect the tournament in June, however those of us who understand the history of modern football know this is simply not the case. For years racism has plagued the game on and off the pitch. From the turn of the 20th century when corrupt dictators used football clubs to promote their ideology of hatred, for example Mussolini though not a true fan of the game promoted Italian strength by openly attending Lazio matches. General Franco of Spain co-opted Real Madrid as the "team of the nation" during his rule. To more recent times in which the influx of black players from Africa and the Caribbean to major European leagues facing racial abuse from "supporters".

The most recent notable incident involved Inter Milan and Italian U 21 international Mario Balotelli having fans at Juventus make monkey noises and throwing bananas onto the pitch.

This writer wonders if the most recent events both in the political the footballing worlds involving racist elements can be used to teach and heal during the World Cup? Both South Africa and FIFA, world football's governing body, can use the tournament as a way to help heal old and deep wounds. One single tournament cannot do this on it's own, however football has shown the ability to unite people of different faiths, races, political beliefs etc.

If the powers that be in both the political world of South Africa and FIFA make a concerted effort to tackle this issue head on as they are so willing to do when it comes to advertising revenue for the tournament then maybe, just maybe, the the true healing for South Africa and the game can begin in earnest.

If you want to lean more about some campaigns to end racism I've attached a link to one organization in England doing it's part. Football Unites, Racism divides. Please paste link into your bar as the hyperlink does not work.

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