UEFA’s Ceferin admits ridding football of racism will be difficult

‘I am a bit afraid of the problem in Europe’: UEFA’s Aleksandar Ceferin admits ridding football of racism will be difficult as he highlights rise of populism and ‘wider’ issue

  • Aleksandar Ceferin spoke at Oxford University about issue of racism in football 
  • There has been criticism over how UEFA have dealt with incidents in the past 
  • Ceferin’s comments this week will not assuage those fears around racism 

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin admits European football’s governing body have been doing the same as everybody else and questioning whether they do enough to combat racism.

But he painted a bleak picture of their hopes of ridding football of a ‘serious, serious problem’.

And Ceferin revealed his fears that not even chucking teams out of competitions would be a big enough deterrent the ‘percentage of ignorant idiots’ behind one of the scourges of the game and society. 

President Aleksander Ceferin has painted a bleak picture of UEFA’s battle against racism

UEFA, along with all of football’s authorities, have long been accused of failing to send out a strong enough message and crack down hard on racism. That has continued this season following the measly punishment handed out to Montenegro after England’s players were targeted in March’s Euro 2020 qualifier in Podgorica.

Three Lions stars Raheem Sterling, Danny Rose and Callum Hudson-Odoi were on the end of shameful racist abuse from Montenegro fans.

Though Montenegro were fined just €20,000 (£17,253) and ordered to play their next qualifier against Kosovo last week behind closed doors.

That was far from the ‘proper stance’ Sterling, who cupped his ears to his abusers in Montenegro after scoring England’s final goal in the 5-1 win, called on UEFA to take.

Danny Rose said he was ‘lost for words’ but ‘not surprised’ by punishments for racism

Meanwhile Rose said he was ‘lost for words’ but ‘not surprised’ by the punishment he described as ‘not harsh enough’. Ceferin’s words during a talk at the University of Oxford’s Said Business School this week will have done little to reassure Rose and others hoping UEFA will get tough.

Ceferin said: ‘About that, [racism] we can speak for days. We are also thinking, ‘Do we do enough? Shall we do it differently?’ One is to punish and the second is to educate and explain to people. To young people. We invest a lot in that. 

‘Our Equal Game campaign was huge but there are still idiots, thank god they are the minority, but still idiots who don’t care.

‘We have a zero tolerance policy. I don’t know if we would change that percentage of ignorant idiots if we were to throw out a national team or a club from competition.

Raheem Sterling was racially abused when England beat Montenegro in Podgorica in March

‘And with the building of populism in Europe it is getting worse and worse. If you don’t have anything to offer to people then you try to scare them and obviously it is the other races, the other religions, they are threatening you.

‘If you are not very clever and you don’t read much you are that kind. It is much wider than football.

‘It is not only up to the governing bodies it is up to the governments, to universities like Oxford.

‘It is a serious problem. I am a bit afraid of the problem in Europe because of this crazy populism on the rise.’

UEFA’s minimum punishment for incidents involving racism is partial stadium closure. Second offences are followed by one match being played behind closed doors and a fine of €50,000 (£42,500).


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