Thank You Laca by Dan
Alexandre Lacazette scored twice last night in the Europa League against Slavia last night, but his proudest moment was before kick-off.
Our captain for the night took the knee, but in an act of defiance decided to do so right in front of the opposition while staring them down. To clarify, our opponents have stopped doing the ritual not because (like some clubs) they feel the message has been lost. They are doing so in protest of their perceived mistreatment of Ondrej Kudela, banned for 10 matches due to ‘racist behaviour towards Rangers’ Glen Kamara.’
The image of Laca has gone viral.
It’s the closest you will find of a picture that shows the state of European Football.
On May 26th, hopefully Arsenal will be inside the Stadion Gdansk. If we are, our players will be forced to take a photo with their Man United or Roma peers, standing behind a UEFA banner claiming to be against racism. That’s the Governing Body ticking a box to appease sponsors.
On their official website you would think that equality was vital to the organisation. There are messages ranging from Paul Pogba, Megan Rapinoe, Koulibaly, Ruud Gullit, Giroud, Pirlo and others. All had been invited by President Aleksander Ceferin to share their first-hand experience of discrimination.
How can on the one hand you showcase individuals pleading for more to be done to battle racial abuse, then hand out the minimum possible punishment?
UEFA boast that they are partners with FARE who proudly have given more than 1,375 grants estimated over 700,000. Working with the Homeless World Cup Foundation, they work with 74 countries to arrange competitions.
In 2019 – with help from CAFE, 34 countries are supported in ensuring disabled people can enjoy a match day experience.
Thanks to working with Colour Blind Awareness, 10 out of 12 stadiums for Euro 2020 will have an accessibility audit.
Other partnerships have led to an increase in female deaf players, 2,550 players in power chair Football are registered with an association, 41,000 fans were in attendance for the Amputee European Final.
So, for an institution who get a lot of negative headlines, it’s important to stress they do noble deeds as well. Like in any work place, you have people who want to do good things and make the world better.
Yet they are regressing in their battle against racism. It’s all words and zero action, and because of that it’s coming across as not being a serious issue.
They represent 55 associations.
Yet it’s like they are scared to make this political. If you’re in charge of 55 countries that play Football, it’s natural that not every culture is going to have the same ideologies and principles.
In this case, look at the reaction in the Czech Republic. Both Kudela’s employers and association have defended the defender with the incident a big national story.
Even the Czech government have defended the player, feeling the 34-year-old has been banned to appease a ‘perverted small group of activists’.
Understandably UEFA would rather not be upsetting a whole countries government.
Yet this technically is their ball. Who plays is up to them? If any nation isn’t happy with their ethos, then they can stay away. Unfortunately, that would take a strong leader. Someone who walks in wanting a complete reform.
There’s zero point asking for help from FIFA. They are about to have a World Cup in Qatar!
Where UEFA haven’t helped themselves is still not providing any evidence to what actually was said between Kudela and Kamara. As things stand, the ban is based on probability which allows Slavia Prague and their government to claim prejudice without evidence.
England are not innocent by the way.
The FA banned Suarez based on probability, meaning the player never took accountability and Liverpool (like Slavia Prague) supported their player.
If UEFA are unwilling or unable to have zero tolerance against racism then maybe they should stop with the hash tags, logos, signs, etc which indicate they do.
They manage to have zero tolerance for other issues. When Kieran Trippier was found guilty of match betting, he was forced to miss 10 weeks of the La Liga season. That amounted to 13 games.
To clarify, a tougher sanction was given to a player for telling a friend to bet on him leaving Spurs, compared to a man racially abusing another man.
The second one is a criminal offence.
If anyone did that in their work place, they would be sacked.
Kudela will miss a run in for a title already won, while being treated like a martyr. He hasn’t been punished. How could he be if he’s showing zero remorse?
Slavia Prague, and even the Czech Republic as a country, are clearly determined to present an ‘us against the world’ mantra to protect their image.
So it’s UEFA’s image that’s been hurt. Already the little faith Football had in them to act with zero tolerance dies a little bit more.
They didn’t have the bravery to insist upon a country examining their principles and values so took the easy way out.
A 10-game ban showing they are doing something, but in reality they are trivialising how serious the offence is.
Or am I being too kind?
Do UEFA simply not have a zero-tolerance policy?
Are they run by personnel not in touch with the modern day?
Maybe to them, breaking betting protocol is more serious?
After all, that’s something all 55 members will agree on because that’s about money.
I dream that on May 26th, we are lifting the Europa League.
I’m sure Mr Ceferin will get his face in on the pictures. I’m sure he will make sure that any celebrations will be in front of a big display claiming how UEFA are against racism.
Yet the most powerful image?
The one that truly shows a zero tolerance towards racism.
Lacazette, bravely, with his head held high, looking Slavia Prague in the eye, with his teammates in support, telling the world he won’t accept hate.