Tuesday 21 November 2017

Off the Ball: Toure's World Cup boycott threat should set tone for fellow sports stars

Off The Ball - Michael McCarthy

After the disgust and outrage over the treatment of Yaya Toure in Moscow last month, it's worth noting the reaction of CSKA Moscow official Sergei Aksenov in Manchester this week was just as pathetic. "Very exaggerated" and "an overreaction" was how he has described claims that Toure had been racially abused by the club's fans. UEFA responded by closing a section of a stand for their game with Bayern Munich in a couple of weeks.

It's all a little too familiar and a bit depressing. One interesting development to come from it, though, was Toure's threat to boycott the 2018 World Cup, due to be held in Russia.

The biggest sporting events should simply never take place in these countries. How can an African side feel comfortable playing in Moscow or St Petersburg? How can a gay Olympian go to Sochi next year? We know that sport's administrators don't care. It's now up to the athletes to make a stand.

Why should we think Toure won't have to put up with more vile chanting in 2018? There has been no evidence of Russia trying to solve the issue in the past. For this lack of effort, they have actually been rewarded by UEFA and FIFA with events such as the Champions League final and the World Cup. Meanwhile, Zenit St Petersburg wouldn't hire a black player until 2012 and, even then, faced near mutiny from their fans.

Sports people are often reluctant to get involved in these issues – but that's no longer good enough. It's time to use their significant power. We can't sit back waiting for Sepp Blatter to suddenly give a damn.

MMC

Irish Independent

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