Football, which began as a game played in the neighborhood between British working class, is of enormous importance to many people today. Billions of people watch the World Cup and record numbers of shares and comments appear on networking sites on match days.
Sadly, however, football often brings about fanaticism and – unfortunately - racism in this time and age. The perception of fanatical supporters and their attitudes and behaviors towards football are occasionally quite outlandish; there are even those who say they are there not to watch the match but to die for their team. And that is not mere hyperbole, as there are some hooligans who arm themselves with knives or other weapons before heading off to matches. Severe injuries, fights and attacks ending in death can be observed during or after matches, in just about all countries where football is a national passion.
Thousands of dead, tens of thousands of injured in football wars
Very few people know that an actual war (thankfully lasting only 100 hours) broke out after a match between two neighboring countries, El Salvador and Honduras, in the 1970 FIFA World Cup elimination rounds. The events started by the hooligans and whipped up by the media became known as the ‘Football War’. The final toll of that war was about 3,000 dead and thousands more injured. The fighting came to an end when the OAS (Organization of American States) intervened. The war itself had many causes, but the actions of hooligans certainly didn't help matters.
Examples of this can be seen in Turkey, too. The first major trouble at a match took place 47 years ago, during a match between Sivas Sport and Kayseri Sport (two regional teams), on September 17th, 1967. Forty-three people were crushed to death or suffocated. When the news reached Sivas, workplaces in the town owned by people from Kayseri were attacked.
Last year after a match between Al-Masry-Port Said and Al-Ahly-Egypt, al-Masry supporters invaded the pitch. At least 79 people died, and thousands were injured. One group of supporters set fire to the stadium, while others turned the incident into a protest against the military regime outside the stadium. State television announced that the army was moving toward the northern city to prevent any further outbreaks, and the league was cancelled.
These are just a few of the thousands of incidents caused by fanaticism.
The scale of racism in football across the world has become alarming. Footballers are exposed to racist activity solely because of the color of their skin. Players, referees and supporters may be sworn at and insulted because of their country of origin, social structure or religion. ‘SS Lazio,’ an Italian club with a heavy record of racism is one example: "Supporters of Mussolini" represent a large part of the club’s fans. One can often see swastikas among the blue and white stands.
Problems cannot be resolved by sanctions
Of course, such undesirable events do not take place all the time in football. Many footballers are very good role models and oppose selfishness, fascism and racism. Nicolas Anerlka, for example, is a player who takes every opportunity to express the contribution of Islamic moral values to football. Moussa Sow has said that he was saved from involvement in crime thanks to football, and that Islam has helped him cope with the terrible pressure in the world of professional sports. Hundreds of football players all over the world transfer part of their income to the needy by means of charities. Some open clinics, some found schools and others help with food and clothing.
However, while the football industry is expanding apace, sufficient measures to rid it of racism and violence are not being taken. UEFA and national sports committees make do with punishments, such as bans and fines, but never get to the root of the problems. Of course statements by people who encourage fanaticism, violence and racism in football should not appear in the press. The media should refrain from giving such abhorrent views a platform and thereby indirectly giving support to racism and fanaticism. The requisite legal sanctions and fines should be imposed on those who exhibit fanatical and racist behavior. But there are other essential matters that need to be resolved.
Measures need to be taken against racist and hooligan thinking before it ever develops. In other words, racism and hooliganism needed to be eliminated with a serious policy of education. That is because the lack of love underlying violence and racism observed in football, and the materialist thinking that constitutes their basis, can only be eliminated through education. It will be impossible to build friendship and brotherhood until the underlying materialist philosophy that leads to lack of love, conflict, selfishness and immorality is eliminated.
The link between racism and people kept in cages
The picture that emerges when one asks “What is the basis of the racist attitudes observed in various branches of sport?” is a most troubling one.
Not so long ago, in 1958, black Africans were placed in cages in Belgium and put on display to visitors. In the same way, Aboriginal people from Australia, Africa and the Americas were often put on display in cages and treated like animals, in what was popularly known as a ‘Human Zoo,’ in nations such as France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain.
The errors in the education system are responsible for all those appalling behaviors. People devoid of any spiritual value who are educated to believe that man is little more than a species of animal can only be freed of these attributes through a serious policy of education.
Education must not be regarded solely as a means of transferring technical matters: Education should also incorporate an education of love and spiritual education. People must be taught that they are created as human beings, that they have souls, and that all individuals are therefore quite valuable. It must be made clear that morality is of real importance, not superficial differences such as race, skin color or physical attributes. In this way, people must learn to love and respect one another. This is the only way that racism can be prevented and the problem can totally be eradicated. Only through education can football, enjoyed by vast numbers across the world, genuinely turn into a sphere of love and brotherhood.