FIFA can do nothing John Barnes delivers damning assessment of racism in football

John Barnes: We’re wasting time arguing about taking the knee

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Talking to Times Radio host Phil Williams, the former footballer confessed that he didn’t think Fifa could “do anything” to tackle racist fans as he claimed he and others need to come to terms with their own internal bias when it comes to halting discrimination. He explained that there was no law the football organisation could put in place which would put a stop to the ever-present issue.

When asked about the correct approach to combating racist fans and whether or not players should walk off the field, the 57-year-old commented: “What’s that going to do?”

He continued: “They’ve walked off the field before. They’ll walk off and forfeit the game and then they’ll lose and then what happens?

“You know what they were banned for in Hungary? It wasn’t for racism – it was for throwing stuff on the field and for violence, that’s what it’s for.

“Because they were booing Raheem Sterling – you’re allowed to boo, you’re allowed to put two fingers up.

“They still didn’t prove racist abuse as much as we may interpret that as racist abuse.

“And this is why I say laws can do nothing,” John added before giving monkey chants as one example of racist abuse heard at games.

“It’s racist abuse, you’ll get kicked out of the ground (for doing that). But if a player walks past you and you scratch your armpit, we know what he’s doing.

“But if you get kicked out the ground, you can then say, ‘I was just scratching my armpit’.

“Are we going to ban armpit scratching? Are we going to ban booing?

“Because that’s what they were doing – they were booing the players in Hungary.

“So you’ve got 10,000 little kids booing the players – that’s not illegal.

“Now, if they were racially abusing them – and as much as we may know they were booing them because they were black – what do we have to do?

“We’ll ban booing, people will clap, and then they’ll do something else.

“So it’s impossible, that’s why FIFA can do nothing, because it is very obvious when you have overt acts of racism – throwing bananas on the field, making monkey chants – but there are other forms of making black players know that you are racially abusing them without it being illegal.”

The 57-year-old’s comments come as a Hungary supporter was arrested for alleged racist abuse of a Wembley Stadium steward during England’s World Cup qualifier on Tuesday.

An investigation has been opened into the incident by the Football Association.

Hungary supporters had also booed England players for taking the knee, as well as showing a flag objecting to the anti-racism gesture.

The Football Association said: “We are aware of an incident in the away section during tonight’s FIFA 2022 World Cup Qualifier at Wembley Stadium. We will be investigating and will report the incident to FIFA.”

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