FIFA plans international investigation of racism in soccer

GENEVA (AP) — FIFA plans to create an international league table of countries which have problems with racism and discrimination in sports.

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GENEVA (AP) — FIFA plans to create an international league table of countries which have problems with racism and discrimination in sports.

At a United Nations forum on racism and football on Monday, FIFA delegate Tokyo Sexwale said the global “barometer” was central to the football governing body’s work to tackle discrimination.

“The barometer is going to tell that society that the conduct of your sporting people is bringing your country down,” Sexwale, a member of FIFA’s Task Force against Racism and Discrimination told his audience of diplomats and officials. “I don’t think anybody here would like to be low on the barometer.”

The South African former anti-apartheid activist said FIFA will organize a summit on racism next year with the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Mandela himself believes that “sport is more powerful than government in breaking down barriers,” Sexwale said.

A Liverpool fan, Sexwale also cited the case of the club’s forward Luis Suarez, who served an eight-match ban for racially insulting a black opponent in a Premier League match in 2011.

FIFA intends to give more details of its anti-discrimination project at the Doha Goals sports conference in Qatar, scheduled Dec. 9-11.

Closer monitoring of countries where incidents involving players or fans are reported is “very, very key” to FIFA’s work, Sexwale told the audience at the U.N.’s European headquarters.

“We are taking the bull by the horns beyond football in recognition of the fact that FIFA has taken the lead once again,” he said.

In January, FIFA President Sepp Blatter created a racism task force after Ghana midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng, then playing for AC Milan, led his teammates off the pitch after being abused by fans during a friendly against a fourth-tier Italian club.

Boateng attended a previous U.N. session on the issue in March which was followed by two meetings of the FIFA panel and a toughening up of football’s sanctions for racial abuse and discrimination. During Monday’s meeting, Italian authorities ordered Boateng’s former club to play its next Serie A home match in an empty San Siro stadium as punishment for insulting chants directed at visiting Juventus at the weekend.

Sexwale said FIFA hoped to help stage a summit early in 2014, where countries would “commit themselves to a set of principles” as part of a charter which would report back to the U.N. in Geneva.

Describing Liverpool’s Suarez as a “young man who I like so much because he is on a team I love,” Sexwale said he was interested in what led the Uruguay forward to use racially charged words.

“What community gave rise to him?” Sexwale questioned. “That (barometer) is what is going to assist for society to say, ‘We do not want to be represented by such insulting persons.'”

FIFA Vice President Michel Platini also addressed the session, and acknowledged that taking action against racism “doesn’t always make us more popular in the football world.”

As president of UEFA, Platini this year helped introduce even stricter sanctions than FIFA’s, and to fast-track cases. Incidents at Champions League and Europa League matches led UEFA to order stadium closures as clubs including Lazio and Legia Warsaw.

“We are doing it because it’s the right thing to do,” Platini said. “Football is even more open to diversity than the rest of society.”

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