Are we too sensitive to racial comments and spitting?

If we believe what been going on in the last couple of weeks, we could come to the conclusion that we in England are too sensitive for the rough and ready world of football. The most noise has been about FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s contribution to the tales of racism between players, following two recent instances in the Premier League, Chelsea and England captain John Terry allegedly against Anton Ferdinand of QPR and the claim by Manchester United’s Patrick Evra that he was racially abused by Liverpool striker, Uruguayan Luis Suarez. I can only recall one personal incidence and that strangely was in an Independent Schools tournament, you do expect better of public school boys. A white player fouled a black player bringing him to the ground but it was not a particularly violent or reckless tackle. I blew up for the foul but as they got to their feet, to my surprise the black player punched his white opponent solidly in the face. ‘Why the hell did you do that?’ I asked the player, ‘I’d given you the free kick.’ His defence was that as they got up, his opponent had called him a coon. I know that these were schoolboys and not professional footballers but I think it illustrates the emptiness of Sepp Blatter’s contention that these things happen in football and player’s should get on with it and shake hands at the end of the game. I didn’t hear the alleged name calling but if I had, I would have sent the offender off. The Laws of the Game instruct a referee to send off any player using abusive, insulting or offensive language – and that was all three. There is a common misunderstanding that it is only a sending-off offence if the words are used to the referee but if aimed at anyone, opponents, officials, team mates or even spectators, the result would be the same. Then there is the case of Wigan’s club captain, Antolin Alcaraz, who was caught on television spitting at Richard Stearman of Wolves. The incident was not seen by the referee or again he would have instantly sent Allcraz off. Spitting in fact is the only direct free kick offence that it’s also an immediate sending off. If, for instance, a player struck an opponent, it is not automatically a sending-off offence, it only becomes one in the eyes of the Laws if the referee considers the striking to be committed with force. With spitting, there is no qualifying clause but it must be deliberate. For a direct free kick, the spitting has to be at an opponent but it is also a sending off it the spit is aimed at anyone, opponents, team mates, officials, or spectators. What is strange is that it is seemingly only the English who are repulsed by racial comments or by spitting by footballers. Sepp Blatter has since apologised for his comments on racist comments but they seemed to have upset very few people outside of England. Indeed he has an ally in Portuguese legend Eusebio, who said he brushed aside racist comments in his playing days. One foreign manager in the English game has also supported Blatter’s view. Uruguayan Gus Poyet, manager of Brighton said that when he played in Spain he was called everything because he came from South America but he didn’t cry saying someone had said something to him. Alcatraz’s manager at Wigan, Spaniard Roberto Martinez, has suggested that officials elsewhere do not take spitting incidents seriously and it would be seen as part of the game. Sometimes he suggested that referee would look away despite the fact that it is a sending-off offence. We may be out of tune with the rest of the world in these matters but I for one, hope we never change.

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