KMN reflects on the issues raised by the Muntari case

KMN reflects on the issues raised by the Muntari case

    0

    Kim Milton Nielsen was talking to Alex Griffiths

    Kim Milton Nielsen

    The dust may have settled on the disgraceful experiences of Sulley Muntari, whose club has since been relegated, but that does not mean we can justify any lack of vigilance as we all try and keep racism out of our game and do so with as much sensitivity as each individual case demands.

    If you missed it, the Ghanaian midfielder was at first shown a red card at Cagliari in Sardinia for walking off in protest at racial abuse from the crowd, and then given a ban, before the FIGC backtracked and rescinded his punishments.

    I have previously mentioned my own brush with on-field racism here, which came at Anfield back in 2005, but I was fortunate in that I never had to face this kind of off-pitch situation, either on duty at home or in any other stadium around the world.

    Without implying that any single country has a monopoly on this problem, certain clubs playing in UEFA competitions were known for potential behaviour such as this during my career, like Lazio, from Rome, for example.

    I sympathise with Muntari’s position but I also feel that enforcement of any anti-racism policy comes with contradictions, in his case that he was supposedly wrong to do what he did until the magic total of 10% of fans are involved, at which point he was right! Who is doing the counting?

    And who can a referee rely upon when he has no choice but to co-operate with individuals representing the police and the host club itself?

    In Denmark there used to be ignorant chanting at black players too, but that was a long time ago and things have moved on, with the exception of some problems at Raklev, in our third tier of football, maybe seven years back.

    There have been concerted efforts made by UEFA, as well as the governments of most European nations including Denmark, not just in terms of racism but with LGBT issues, as well.

    Even so, whenever it has occurred it has been something I have seen in the media and not witnessed in the stadium for myself, which highlights another of the problems faced by authorities in attempting to stamp it out. Whose word do you take when there are disagreements and how long after the game where an opponent is the victim must the other club be held to account?

    Finding the best way to punish is such a difficult one, and playing behind closed doors is far from the perfect solution.

    You will also get anomalies when it comes to idioms, or linguistics. For instance, calling someone white is not regarded as wrong anywhere that I know of, while any other colour might very well be considered so. You have the defence offered by Luis Suarez for the way he addressed Patrice Evra in 2011 as a complicating factor, which was rejected by an FA panel but still raises cultural differences that continue to make the whole area a minefield.

    The way forward surely involves a large amount of self-justice, or self-policing as you call it in the UK. If a supporter is afraid that his team will be banned because there was a failure to stop such behaviour, this would obviously increase the prospects of offences being addressed and reported.

    Sadly, the trend in football, as in society, is for bystanders not to take any risks. You can see it for yourself every day of the week on a train into Copenhagen or wherever you happen to live: people are simply scared of getting involved, however serious or frivolous an incident might seem to be.

    What we don’t want is for clubs to get off the hook by claiming incidents are sufficiently isolated, as appeared to be the case both at Cagliari v Pescara and also at a recent Estudiantes v Boca derby match in Argentina.

    The 10% thing really is pure nonsense, because at a major final we might in practice be saying it is acceptable until a total of 10,000 people are singing something racist!

    Let’s all do our bit and challenge racism, and any form of prejudice for that matter, until we finally get the environment, the rules and the punishments right. Vi ses (see you later) and held og lykke (good luck) until June, when I will report back from Cardiff!