UEFA urges players to speak out on racism
SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) -UEFA's executive committee wants players to speak out against teammates and fans after racist incidents at football matches.
The UEFA ruling board on Thursday ratified a proposal on tackling discrimination presented by its Professional Football Strategy Council, which is chaired by President Michel Platini.
A call for tougher sanctions echoed recent comments by FIFA President Sepp Blatter, but went further stressing a key role for players to curb the problem.
Players and coaches, "namely those with most influence on the perpetrators of racist acts - (should) speak out, even if this may mean criticizing their own fans or players,'' UEFA said.
After high-profile incidents in the English Premier League last season, Chelsea and Liverpool were criticized for solidly standing by John Terry and Luis Suarez, respectively, who served bans for racially insulting opponents.
The debate on racism in European football intensified this season after incidents including a bad-tempered match between Serbia and England in an Under-21 European Championship playoff, and stadium closures imposed by FIFA on Hungary and Bulgaria for World Cup qualifiers.
AC Milan midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng's decision to walk off the pitch, causing a friendly against a fourth-tier Italian club to be abandoned, led FIFA to appoint him to a task force studying the problem.
The UEFA strategy panel, which included delegates from national associations, leagues, clubs and players' unions, met on Wednesday in Sofia and urged competition organizers to tell referees "to stop matches in cases of racism.''
Still, UEFA's claim of zero tolerance of racism comes after it declined to open disciplinary action against Zenit St. Petersburg after a Europa League match two weeks ago against Basel, where Russian fans reportedly targeted monkey noises at the Swiss club's players.
Basel midfielder Cabral, who is black, suggested the match was too finely poised, as his team defended a 2-1 aggregate lead with 10 men, to follow Boateng's example.
"Of course, the referee should have intervened,'' Cabral was reported telling Swiss media. "Maybe if we were going to be eliminated, I would have left the pitch, but there ...''
The UEFA statement on Thursday called on state authorities to "play their part.''
"Providing the football bodies with the necessary legal means; acting and emphasizing to arrest, prosecute and ban from stadia for significant periods those responsible for racist acts; allowing the exchange of information regarding racist activities between states and football bodies,'' UEFA said.
The proposal stated UEFA's "full and unconditional opposition to any form of discrimination.''
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