It won’t surprise many that I’m not a huge soccer fan (except of the US men’s national team, because the World Cup is insane), considering that there isn’t even a “soccer” category for posts on this site, but the Mario Balotelli issue goes beyond soccer.
Balotelli was seen crying after Italian fans made racist chants at him, which they’ve done somewhere between a million and a billion times before. As Deadspin points out, the tears may not have been due to the chants, but other stuff. What exactly it was about is up for debate, we’ll just say that. But here’s the thing about the source of the tears…
WHO FUCKING CARES?! It doesn’t matter whether or not the tears started pouring out because of the chants. The point that everyone seems to be missing, including Deadspin, which is usually not one to miss the most important take on an issue, is that there were still racist chants from many, many people. Not as in one idiot throwing a banana at Wayne Simmonds in a preseason game a few years back, not a few dumbasses taking racist shots at Joel Ward. This was large sections of a stadium making racist chants at a guy that they expect to play for their very own national team this year in the World Cup. That’s right, this was a crowd in Italy hating on an Italian simply because of his race.
Too often in Europe and especially Italy, fans feel that race is within the lines of how to chirp a player. Any person with some sense knows that it’s not. America has way too many faults racially, and the ways that some of our current laws are written or enforced prove that. And an Italian would point out that their country didn’t have slavery like we did only a little more than 150 years ago. That’s all true, an America needs to improve on these issues. But, when a level of racism happens towards an athlete in North America, at least we condemn it. Wayne Simmonds had one banana thrown at him in Ontario. The entire hockey community, and really anyone in America or Canada who paid attention to it, condemned it. However, it was only about a year ago that hundreds of Italian fans held up bananas at Balotelli as he returned to the stadium of the team for which he used to play. And that was cool by them, just like the racist chants this past Saturday seem to be ok with the Italian media and people because that’s not actually what caused the humiliated black man to cry.
Obviously, I can’t change the thinking of thousands of Italian soccer fans, much less all of Europe. Even the most well regarded columnist probably couldn’t. But you know who could at least make a dent in it? FIFA. FIFA has all those signs on the side of the field in the World Cup that say “Say no to racism,” as if FIFA is actually doing all it can to fight racism. Now, I won’t pretend to know everything about what FIFA does, much less what it does about racism on a regular basis. But what I do know is that Mario Balotelli yet again faced racist chants, and no one in Italy really condemned it.
You know that announcement at the start of Bruins games where the PA guy says “Throwing objects onto the ice may result in a two minute penalty on the Bruins.” Let’s steal that idea and apply it to something far more important than throwing beer cups on the ice: trying to fight racism. If the Italian soccer fans really only care about the game and think that it’s far more important than human decency and dignity, then let’s actually hit them where it hurts by penalizing the team. Any time that opposing fans chant something like that against Balotelli, assign a yellow card to the best player for the home team. If someone has another suggestion of how to punish them, given that I’m not a soccer expert, I’m all ears. But not doing something about actions as vitriolic as racist chants only allows it to continue. Step up, FIFA, and stop being chicken shit on this issue.