Yesterday’s showcase game in Paris between hosts Paris Saint Germain and Chelsea should have been the poster boy for this round of the Champions League but instead the actions of a few travelling Blues supporters tarnished the night and with it Chelsea’s reputation. Reports coming out of Paris suggest that an incident happened on the Paris underground system between a group of rowdy Chelsea fans and a black Parisian man with the fans refusing him entry onto the train they were travelling on. To make matters worse, they then racially abused the man before shoving him back onto the platform. Footage of the event has emerged as a bystander Paul Nolan who shocked at what he was hearing and seeing pulled out his phone and recorded it. Chats of “We are Chelsea, We are racist and that’s the way we like it” can be heard clearly on the video. Nolan described the scene as “ugly” and “very aggressive” also alluded to chants made by the Chelsea supporters on the train about World War Two and other grotesque topics. One fan has been quick to try to defend his fellow supporters suggesting they was simply no room on the train for the black Parisian man and the chants were coincidental and about John Terry not the man himself. Given the footage and the aggressive nature of how the fans acted towards the man in question, it hardly seems to be a misunderstanding as suggested by the fan.
Chelsea, the English FA, UEFA and FIFA have all come out united in their disgusted at what happened with the club in particular annoyed stating that racism plays no part at their club or in football in general and that they will assist the Metropolitan police in bringing those responsible to justice. FIFA president Sepp Blatter took to twitter last night to condemn the actions of the fans stating simply “There is no place for racism in football”. Both FIFA and UEFA are unable to enforce action onto Chelsea as the incident took place away from the stadium outside of their remit but have supported the club in their involvement with the police in tracking down the individuals responsible and handing down whatever punishment is needed.
FIFA and UEFA however will likely punish Chelsea after additional reports surfaced of crowd trouble at the stadium before the game that was so severe that French police were forced to use teargas to bring the situation into order. This is not the first time that an English club has clashed with French police with Everton fans involved only months ago in an altercation in the run up to their Europa league game against Ligue 1 side Lille. These two incidents come at a time where the fight against racism in football appears to be a losing battle with a return to the darker ages becoming a more realistic reality. The increase in racist and homophobic chants inside English stadiums as well as in other countries like Russia, Greece and Italy are in stark contrast to the messages surfacing from UEFA and FIFA that their campaign to say No to Racism is gaining valuable ground. In fact the opposite is true with the ten year fight now losing its impotence. Each anti racism message read out at football stadiums across Europe before the start of games is simply ignored or dismissed. UEFA’s campaign has gone stagnant and its failure to hand down severe penalties to players like Luis Suarez and Chelsea captain John Terry (who was caught on film racially abusing a fellow player, Anton Ferdinand) does little to help their cause. Swift reform and harsher punishments are needed. UEFA will ban a club from European competition for overspending but it refuses to hand down similar punishments for racist or homophobic acts by clubs fans, players or officials. Where is the logic in that?
Racism has long been a problem in football and not something that will be solved any time soon. Whilst UEFA can be commended for tackling the issue head on some ten years ago, they now need to desperately breathe new life into it before it spirals further out of control. As for Chelsea, who take a small advantage back to Stamford Bridge for the return leg thanks to a hard fought 1-1 draw, action will need to be taken to address not only this story but a growing concern at the club that a racist element is resurfacing. John Terry’s actions and lack of punishment have not helped the situation but it is hard to point the finger fully at that given the amount of time that has now passed. But for a club that has its fair share of black players in its first team including the legendary figure of Didier Drogba, it must take a stance to eradicate this element before it grows and festers into something more sinister. How Drogba himself feels about the incident in Paris is unknown but it would be surprising if he was anything but appalled by what he saw from the fans who he has given his all for over the last ten years. Chelsea may claim that this group of individuals is only a small minority and that a vast majority of the Chelsea support is against racism but until they can prove it and finally stamp it out of their club, few will believe them.