Marina Hyde: This Sepp Blatter racism row shows England's morals are better than its football

"Despite England's outdated play, our attitudes on racism are progressive in comparison with fans of our footballing superiors"

Picture: BBC

Warning: Strong Language
Marina Hyde's Article in the Guardian discusses the current Sepp Blatter controversy:

Marina Hyde, writing for the Guardian
"I cannot resign," explained Fifa president Sepp Blatter. "When you are faced with a problem you have to face the problem. To leave would be totally unfair." Oh dear. Once again, the only solution to the problem of Sepp Blatter is Sepp Blatter. It's like an Escher drawing, this endless round of self-created disasters from which the plucky Swiss must extricate himself to increasingly sarcastic acclaim...

...It is fitting that this latest racism row leaves England in splendid isolation once again. If we were to go for a Fifa executive committee resolution condemning Blatter's remarks, we would not get even one other vote. The president's comments have been met with indifference or only the mildest interest anywhere but here.

Even so, there is a peculiar comfort to be taken from the fact our society has evolved in the opposite direction to our football. Whereas England's play can seem excruciatingly outdated, the attitudes of most of those who follow it seem progressive in comparison with the supporters of many of our footballing betters. This may seem an odd thing to say, given the England captain is currently under investigation by the Metropolitan police for alleged racism, but you can't help feeling the case against John Terry would not even have made it off the pitch in many other countries. When the Spanish manager called Thierry Henry a "black shit" a few years ago, the then Uefa chief executive suggested Henry should respond by hugging him. That would "surpass any anti racist initiative we've held". Like that's hard.

But then, we know where racism ranks in Fifa's league table of sins. When racist chants rained down on England players in a friendly against Spain, the Spanish FA were fined £44,750. When Cameroon wore the wrong kit in the African Cup of Nations that same year, FIFA relieved them of £86,000.

As far as our own traditionally craven FA goes, news it has charged Luis Suarez with racially abusing Patrice Evra last month marks a historic change of tack. Four years ago, Joleon Lescott said it felt like he was on trial when he made an allegation of racism, while a host of  professional lipreaders concurred that Peter Schmeichel called Ian Wright a "dirty black bastard" back in 1997, only for the FA to bottle the chance to do anything about that (and so many other incidents before and since).

Make no mistake: the Suarez and Terry cases are there because players – and subsequently the press and supporters – put them there. It has finally become a political imperative for the FA to be seen to be doing something.

There are periods when a somewhat stagnated movement seems to take a sudden step forward, and the past month has been one of those for English football and racism. When Evra first made his allegations, many fans took sides along club lines, and the United player appeared to have been prejudged by large sections of the press. The wording of a Guardian poll ran: "Should Evra be banned if his claim proves false?"

But the Terry and Blatter stories coming in such quick succession have kept an educative debate in the headlines. Perhaps even a few of those geniuses who insist racist epithets are "no different to calling someone ginger" have found that line hard to stick to in the week where Duwayne Brooks described how his murdered friend Stephen Lawrence was allegedly set upon by a weapon-wielding gang calling him "nigger". Who knows. My suspicion is that a confluence of circumstances means that a bit more thought will be given by a range of parties next time an allegation is made within football.

Any shift in attitudes and understanding will be most timely, because next summer's European Championships in Poland and Ukraine represent a potentially explosive challenge to FIFA's quarter-arsed stance on racism. A recent report by the European anti-racism group FARE documented 195 racist incidents involving football in just 18 months in the host nations – which its authors described as "only the very tip of the iceberg", warning that far right groups will be active and visible during the Euros.

As for England, with our old-fashioned football and newfangled football
politics – well, it's a funny old game. Nobody likes us, and we're learning not to care. It's an odd sort of cocoon to be in – but, given some of the alternatives, not the worst berth in international football's moral universe.

The full article can be found on The Guardian website.