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FIFA is calling for a global standard to punish racist insults and asking players to use the “crossed hands” sign

GENEVA (AP) — FIFA wants all 211 national associations to make racial insults a disciplinary offense and alert victims to referees’ attention to insults using a crossed-hands gesture.

GENEVA (AP) — FIFA wants all 211 national associations to make racial insults a disciplinary offense and alert victims to referees’ attention to insults using a crossed-hands gesture.

Football’s world governing body outlined on Thursday the tougher and more unified approach it plans to take in the fight against racism, after months of consultation with affected players, including Real Madrid star Vinícius Júnior.

The crossed hands gesture was made on a medal podium at the Tokyo 2021 Olympics by American athlete Raven Saunders, who won silver in the women’s shot put. At the time, she said it was “the intersection where all oppressed people meet.”

FIFA encourages players to use this gesture and asks referees to cross their hands afterwards to indicate they are taking action.

There was little enthusiasm for this at Kick It Out, the British fan group that campaigns against racism. It said: “Instead of introducing new hand gestures, FIFA should focus on giving players and their management the opportunity to leave the pitch when they deem it appropriate.”

Teams whose fans or players racially abuse their opponents could soon face disciplinary sanctions, such as forfeiting games, typically a 3-0 defeat, as part of a five-pillar commitment to combat discrimination. The measures will be presented to FIFA member associations at their annual meeting in Bangkok on Friday.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino vowed months ago to make a global proposal and has consulted with Brazilian star Vinicius Junior, who is black and has been repeatedly abused by opposing fans in Spanish stadiums.

He broke down in tears at a press conference in March before Spain hosted Brazil in a friendly organized because of the ongoing abuse he faced in his adopted homeland.

“It is time for football to come together and make an unequivocal commitment as a global community to address the problem of racism in football,” FIFA said in a letter to member associations.

FIFA also wants to set up a players’ panel to “monitor and advise on the implementation of these measures worldwide.”

Football has struggled to combat racism in stadiums for more than a decade. Previous measures have included coordinated on-field responses by match officials and post-match disciplinary action by associations and competition organizers.

More severe sanctions, such as game forfeits, point deductions or even disqualification from a competition, were deemed too difficult to legally enforce. There is also a risk that agitators will try to provoke incidents.

Football leaders in countries such as Italy and Spain have consistently denied that the sport has a racism problem.

In some cases, investigations were closed by football authorities, including UEFA, because there was no evidence beyond the player’s claim that there was abuse.

Black players who claimed to have been racially abused by opponents or fans and attempted to leave the field received a yellow card themselves for their behavior.

FIFA wants referees to also signal with crossed hands during a match where racist and discriminatory insults are heard, initiating a long-standing three-step process: halting the game and sending warnings around the stadium, removing teams from the pitch and then cancel the games.

Kick It Out, which has been involved in football since 1993, said the three moves had “failed to provide protection for players for years” but admitted FIFA’s intentions “seem genuine”.

This three-stage process should be mandatory for all 211 associations, FIFA said on Thursday. They are also asked to lobby their governments to make racism a criminal offense and prosecute cases, as well as to promote anti-racism work in schools.

Before Saunders crossed her hands in Tokyo, the men’s marathon silver medalist at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro used the gesture.

Feyisa Lilesa raised her arms above her head and crossed her wrists at the finish line in Rio to protest government repression back home in Ethiopia.

Saunders initially had trouble with the IOC over the gesture, which also represented a broader statement celebrating diversity. The IOC investigation into whether she had violated rules banning political speech at medal ceremonies was paused days later following the death of Saunders’ mother.

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AP Soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer

Graham Dunbar, The Associated Press


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