Wednesday 26 July 2017

FIFA President Gianni Infantino to meet with Sulley Muntari and head of Italian FA amid racism incidents

SANTIAGO, CHILE - APRIL 26: FIFA President Gianni Infantino speaks during the 67th CONMEBOL Congress at Sheraton Hotel on April 26, 2017 in Santiago, Chile. (Photo by Esteban Garay/LatinContent/Getty Images)
SANTIAGO, CHILE - APRIL 26: FIFA President Gianni Infantino speaks during the 67th CONMEBOL Congress at Sheraton Hotel on April 26, 2017 in Santiago, Chile. (Photo by Esteban Garay/LatinContent/Getty Images)

Jack O'Toole

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has vowed to meet with Pescara midfielder Sulley Muntari, and head of the Italian Italian Football Federation Carlo Tavecchio, after Italian football was marred last week by two separate incidents of racism.

Muntari, 32, was sent off against Cagliari on April 30 for a second yellow card after leaving the game in protest following his complaints of racial abuse to referee Daniele Minelli, while Juventus defender Mehdi Benatia was speaking in a live interview with Italian broadcasters Rai on Saturday when he overheard someone racially abusing him over the radio earpiece he was wearing.

Benatia was speaking to the broadcasters following Juventus' 1-1 draw with Torino when he suddenly stopped mid-sentence and accused someone of saying in his earpiece: “What are you saying, s****y Moroccan?”

The racial slur, which was not broadcast to the public, caused Benatia to react angrily.

“Who said that in the background?” he said. “I heard someone talking in the background. Who said that? I heard an insult.”

The incidents have prompted Infantino to call a meeting with Muntari and Tavecchio with the FIFA chief telling reporters that he will fight 'football's idiots' ahead of Thursday's FIFA Congress in Bahrain.

"Of course I will speak to Tavecchio, I will speak to Muntari as well... we will work together," said Infantino, who also said he intends to talk to the head of the Italian FA, Carlo Tavecchio.

"Unfortunately idiots, there are always idiots everywhere but we have to fight them. We have to work on the people."

Previously FIFA's anti-racism taskforce would have addressed such issues, however, the taskforce was disbanded in 2015 when the group's head, Jeffrey Webb, was arrested in 2015 as part of an investigation into corruption.

The taskforce disbanded in September 2016 with FIFA secretary general Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura claiming that the group had fulfilled its "specific mandate", while former FIFA vice-president Prince Ali bin al-Hussein described the disbandment as "extremely worrying".

Muntari said that he felt like he was treated like a 'criminal' by the football authorities, and that FIFA and UEFA have been hesitant to fight racism in football, however, he also added that he has faith that Infantino may be able to do a better job at tackling the issue than his predecessor Sepp Blatter.

"I went through hell, I was treated just like a criminal. I went off the field because I felt it wasn't right for me to be on the field while I have been racially abused," he told BBC Sport's David Ornstein on Monday.

"Fifa and Uefa only care about what they want to care about. If they want to fight racism they should be able to jump right in and tackle it.

"But they have nothing to say about it. This is a big deal.

"Maybe the new president Infantino will do something about it. He has a different mind.

"I think he is capable of doing something in a good way to fight racism. I want him to fight racism."

A Uefa statement on the issue said: "The fight to eliminate racism, discrimination and intolerance from football is a major priority for our organisation.

"Uefa condemns such deplorable behaviour and has always shown zero tolerance for any form of racism and discrimination."

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