Racism has no place in soccer. As a soccer fan, I expect the Chinese Football Association Super League (CSL) to do its best to combat racism, and without this resolve, the whole top-tier Chinese league loses all of its fun, joy, charm and moral mandate of the sport.
Unfortunately, when a pointed case was brought to a Chinese Football Association (CFA) hearing, the Chinese soccer authority failed at reassuring soccer players and fans alike its firm position against any act of racism on the soccer field.
The hearing took place following a tense dispute during a CSL clash between Shanghai Greenland Shenhua Football Club and Changchun Yatai Football Club, at which Shenhua's Demba Ba, a Senegalese international, was apparently outraged after Yatai's Zhang Li said something to him. Video footage of the game showed the former Chelsea star angrily grabbing Zhang Li by the jersey. Previously, Ba had tackled another Yatai player, and it was a foul. Zhang, who was not tackled, came to the scene nevertheless and said something that made Ba visibly furious. Fortunately, Ba and Zhang were quickly separated by players of both teams. The referee gave Ba and Zhang each a yellow card, and the game ended 1:1.
Exactly what Zhang had said to Ba was a key question. Multiple Chinese sports media outlets reported after the draw that Zhang said "you black" multiple times. Such reporting has been vehemently denied by Zhang. However, it was also quickly pointed out by the media that Nigerian international Odion Ighalo, Yatai's captain, tried to soothe down the indignant Ba in an apparently understanding, supportive way. Such brotherly behavior by Ighalo, an African player just like Ba, was interpreted by media as sympathetic to an opponent player who was from the same continent and had just been verbally abused.
The incident was an immediate outrage among soccer fans and the general public, who were concerned about this racist abuse in CSL. Amid public outcry, this unfortunate incident during a CSL match provided the CFA with an opportunity to make a firm statement about racial behavior in the Chinese soccer world. However, the opportunity was missed.
Following the hearing, the proceedings of which were never disclosed to the public, CFA issued an announcement that Zhang was handed down a six-match suspension and a total fine of 42,000 yuan ($6,099.79) because of his behavior that "disrupted the match, created an uproar, and had a negative social impact." The whole announcement mentioned nothing about racism or racial, verbal abuse. Zhang's exact behavior that resulted in his six-match suspension was ultimately unclear.
Racism has no place in CSL soccer. I feel sorry for the opportunity missed by CFA to take action against a racial incident. It could be argued that Zhang didn't say anything racially sensitive to Ba, but CFA has the duty and authority to run a thorough investigation to determine what exactly happened during the match.
African players have long been present in the Chinese soccer scene starting from the early days of professional leagues back in the 1990s. Indeed, racism hasn't been an issue in the Chinese soccer scene before. In recent years, thanks to big-money investment and increasing fan support, CSL has been attracting more talented international players, many of whom come from the African continent. The international exposure of CSL and the presence of many African players, make it an imperative that we say no to racial behavior. All players and fans have the right to enjoy the fun and beauty of the game and have the same obligation to protect its moral integrity.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.
Source: David Lee Source:Global Times
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