Foul play?

Football excites millions around the world, regardless of nationality, race and political views. It is a sport that can possibly make a Brazilian teenager relate to a middle-aged man in Botswana.

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Published: Sat 23 Mar 2013, 10:14 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 10:47 AM

When you see scrawny children wearing Real Madrid’s number-seven shirt (worn by star player Chriatiano Ronaldo) and kicking around a football along the rutted alleys of Karachi’s slums, you truly realise football’s global appeal.

But the world’s favourite sport, according to UN High Commissioner For Human Rights Navi Pillay, has fallen short of keeping up with the times. The South African lawyer, who is renowned for winning the right for Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners to seek legal counsel, believes that under-representation of women and racism have failed to football “catch up with 21st century values of respecting diversity.”

The veracity of Pillai’s comments cannot be denied. Even though football is a celebrated sport in every corner of the globe, the fact is that it is still a sport that still shies from adhering to values of multiculturalism. Racism, for instance, has been a big problem in the sport that brings together a diverse cohort of players as part of global football clubs.

In 2011, Liverpool’s Uruguayan player Suarez was given an eight-match ban and a heavy fine of £40,000 by the Football Association (FA) after he was found guilty of racially abusing a player from another football club. Months after that incident, Chelsea captain John Terry was suspended for four matches and also heavily fined.

Even though the football fraternity has promised stricter actions against players who engage in racist actions— Fifa recently announced created an anti-racism task force — the failure of the sport to adhere to the basic norm of tolerance is disappointing.

Moreover, with negligible representation of women, the sport is still considered a man’s domain. Women players have made a mark in other sports like tennis, swimming and athletics. But it is rather shameful that the sport with the most overwhelming fan following worldwide still doesn’t quite have a spot for them. It’s enough reason for most of us cry foul play!

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