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UN urges FIFA to promote anti-racism at 2010 World Cup

Latest update : 2009-04-22

The United Nations expert on racism, Githu Muigai, has declared football to be a barometer of the impact of racism and xenophobia on society. A recent rash of incidents included racist chanting during an Italian football match last week.

AFP - Football is proving to be a valuable barometer of the serious impact of racism and xenophobia in society, the UN's expert on racism has told AFP after a rash of incidents at stadiums.

Githu Muigai, the United Nations Special Rapporteur against racism, highlighted racist chanting during last weekend's match between Juventus and Inter Milan in Italy, directed at Inter's Mario Balotelli.

The teenage Italian under-21 international forward is of Ghanaian origin.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg," Muigai observed.

"We know that repeatedly, this year alone football governing bodies must have fined or reprimanded more than a dozen teams on the basis of the racism of spectators."

"This to me is a good barometer about what's happening at the heart of society and I think it means there is a lot of work to be done," Muigai said on the sidelines of a UN conference against racism.

On Tuesday, that conference adopted a declaration against racism and xenophobia in the world.

It included a paragraph calling on world football's governing body FIFA to introduce a "visible theme on non-racism" at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Muigai said talks were underway with FIFA.

He underlined the symbolism that an educational campaign would carry internationally if it was kicked off in South Africa, the former home of the "Whites-only" apartheid regime.

But the Kenyan lawyer also warned against dismissing racism among some fans as a political problem linked to right-wing groups that were out of tune with the rest of society.

"I don't think so," he said. "If you take what people say and see how people react in football stadiums, then you know that at the heart of society we still have serious problems we have to address."

European football's governing body UEFA has been trying to get footballing nations to clamp down on racist incidents that have marred matches in several countries in recent years.

On Tuesday, UEFA chief Michel Platini revealed that European football bosses were considering introducing an immediate sanction for the first time, by suspending matches for 10 minutes if fans take part in racist chanting.

"It would take courage but the decision of UEFA would be to stop the match for 10 minutes if there is racist chanting and to call it off altogether if it continued," Platini said.

Juventus has apologised for the chanting by a section of the crowd, and the club was ordered to play a match behind closed doors as punishment for the incident in Turin on Saturday.

Date created : 2009-04-22