Rio Ferdinand was the target of racist abuse when playing for England against Spain in 2004, along with team mates Ashley Cole and Shaun Wright-Phillips. Every time they went near the ball, the crowd could be heard making monkey noises, leading Rio to almost walk off the pitch.
“I don’t think anybody back in England or on the England team would have blamed us,” he said after the match. “It is a difficult call for the manager [to bring the players off], especially when you are losing. But the abuse was disgraceful.”
Ferdinand has fought long and hard with the “Kick Racism Out of Football” campaign, but it seems to little avail, with the most recent racist incident taking place in Portsmouth’s match against Tottenham Hotspur a couple of weeks ago.
Is it any wonder though, with the ever incompetent Sepp Blatter at the helm of world football?
“Tell that negro de mierda (shitty black) that you are much better than him,” shouted Spanish coach, Luis Aragones, to Jose Reyes in 2004. “Don’t hold back, tell him. Tell him from me. You have to believe in yourself, you’re better than that negro de mierda.” He was of course talking about Thierry Henry, Reyes’ Arsenal team mate at the time.
This brought about attention from all over the World, all curious to see how such a situation would be handled. To use such a blatantly racist term was shocking, so surely he couldn’t get away with it. There were calls for him to be sacked.
However, the following year, he was fined just £2,060 for the incident, the equivalent of a day’s wages.
Rio Ferdinand has had enough of the spineless attitude UEFA and FIFA have towards the issue of racism, and believes it is ever to be kicked out of the game, Blatter has to step up the punishments.
“The football authorities need to look at themselves,” said Rio. “Sepp Blatter likes to speak up about things that are good for FIFA’s image but I would love to see them stand up and dish out the right punishments for these incidents. They make a lot of comments about what they are going to do but they never back up the words with actions.”
When England played Croatia in September, Wigan’s Emile Heskey was the target of racist abuse from the opposing fans, after being fined already back in June for racist behaviour at the Euros. Despite the incidents both taking place within a three month period, the Croatian Football Federation was fined less than £15,000.
“Croatia were fined a few thousand quid. What good is that going to do?” Rio questioned. “That is not going to stop people shouting racist or homophobic abuse. If things like this keep happening you have to take points off them. Then the punters will realise the team is going to be punished.”