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Leading sports figures united against growing racism in French soccer

Leading sports figures united against growing racism in French soccer

Leading sports figures are uniting to combat racism in French soccer, and want harsher punishments.
UEFA president Michel Platini, sports minister Bernard Laporte and French league president Frederic Thiriez all spoke out after racism tarnished the image of French soccer once again last weekend.
"The fight against racism is the dossier I want to work the most on, as it is something intolerable," Platini said on French radio Thursday.
Thiriez wants the government to crack down on a far-right group of fans from first-division club Metz calling themselves "The Faction" _ which includes the even more extreme "Identity Youth" group.
"It is without doubt the time to announce such a dissolution for the first time," Thiriez said, adding that he has submitted the matter to the interior ministry.
About 10 members of "Youth Identity" made Nazi salutes at the end of last week's match at French leader Lyon, in response to Metz players throwing T-shirts into the crowd emblazoned with an anti-racism logo.
Metz stewards present at Stade Gerland on Saturday are working with police to identify the culprits, who could face up to a year in prison and a fine of up to euro15,000 (US$22,600 dollars).
"I hope banning orders will be given by the police chief," Thiriez said. "Everyone has to do their job. Football is doing it, public authorities have to do it."
In a separate incident, a Metz fan has been banned from attending matches for three months for making racist remarks to Valenciennes captain Abdeslam Ouaddou, who is Moroccan, on Feb. 16.
Thiriez believes countries such as England do far more to tackle racism.
"Today in France we only have 80 people banned from stadiums," Thiriez said. "In England, there are 3,500. Thus, this law needs to be applied with much more severity, and I assure you that we would solve 90 percent of violence and racism in stadiums."
Piarra Power, who heads the British-based "Kick Racism Out Of Soccer" anti-racism campaign, said a similar incident in Britain would have been dealt with far more sternly.
The perpetrator "would have been given a three-year banning order from all matches in the U.K. and would have been placed on a watch list (to stop him attending games abroad)," Power said by telephone.
"But banning orders are just one way of dealing with the problem. Another way is encouraging other fans to exert peer pressure so that people know where the line is drawn."
On Friday, some Bastia fans at a second-division match against Libourne Saint-Seurin unfurled a racist banner aimed at Boubacar Kebe, who is black and from Burkina Faso.
The referee delayed the start by three minutes until the banner was removed.
"The Ouaddou affair is very serious," Platini told France Info. "But it concerns an isolated individual. The Kebe affair is even worse, as it is premeditated."
Platini has previously called for the creation of a specialized police force dedicated to fighting racism in soccer.
Kebe refused to play Friday because he had already been racially insulted by some Bastia supporters on Sept. 14, when he reacted with a gesture that led to him being sent off.
Ouaddou was shown a yellow card by referee Damien Ledentu for nonsporting behavior because he climbed into the stands to confront the perpetrator.
The yellow card "makes a bit of a mockery of it," Power said. "In many ways, you applaud the player's restraint."
Power said "it is an issue for the disciplinary authorities" whether a player who is racially provoked should be sanctioned at all.
Bastia could face a further points deduction but Laporte does not think this is enough, saying clubs should be held financially responsible for the behavior of its fans.


Updated : 2021-07-25 12:18 GMT+08:00