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FIFA disbands anti-racism task force, turns blind eye to 2018 World Cup fears
FIFA has disbanded its anti-racism task force, saying the committee “completely fulfilled its temporary mission” despite widespread fears of discriminatory behavior ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Members of the committee were informed of its dissolution on Friday, just in time for the task force to avoid having to handle next summer’s Confederations Cup in Russia. Russia’s domestic game is notorious for racist and far-right incidents in the stands, with numerous high profile players having described troubling accounts of racial abuse during their time in Russia.
The World Cup is seen internationally as a celebration of the global diversity of sport, but the toxic threat of discriminatory behavior and hooliganism has the potential to further mar the reputation of FIFA and the tournament in 2018.
Yet the Associated Press report that FIFA is satisfied with the achievements of the task force, citing the launch of a “Good Practice Guide” and a new diversity award, to be presented at the SoccerEX convention on Monday.
However, there is little evidence that their strategies have ever left the boardroom. It is naive, of course, to expect a mere task force to be able to stamp such a widespread issue out of the world game. Yet the notion of such a committee at least showed that FIFA were willing to address the issue on paper and build off of their “Say No to Racism” campaign. Its dissolution now suggests that FIFA simply don’t care.
“I wish I could say that I am shocked by the decision, but unfortunately I am not,” task force member Osasu Obayiuwana told The Associated Press. “The problem of racism in football remains a burning, very serious and topical one, which need continuous attention.
“I personally think there remained a lot of very serious work for the task force to have done — the 2018 World Cup in Russia being one such matter. But it is evident the FIFA administration takes a different position.”
The task force was created in spring of 2013 and chaired by disgraced former-FIFA vice president Jeffrey Webb, who was shunted out of FIFA in 2015 after pleading guilty to racketeering charges. According to Obayiuwana, the task force has “never had a single meeting” under the chairmanship of Webb’s replacement Constant Omari, who has a seat on FIFA’s ruling council.
He added: “I wrote him, more than once, asking for when a meeting would be held. But I never received a reply from him.”
Exactly a year to the day since he replaced Webb, Omari has shut down the committee.
Previously, Tokyo Sexwale, a former anti-apartheid activist and FIFA presidential candidate, had been in support of making the task force a permanent committee. In a speech to the FIFA Congress in February, he succinctly noted that “racism is going to be with us for a long, long time. [The task force] can’t just be a committee that comes ad hoc.”
FIFA, it seems, have looked the other way.