SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Germany defender Antonio Ruediger has arrived at the Confederations Cup with a warning about soccer’s “incomprehensible” response to racism.
However, it is the limited action by Italian authorities the AS Roma player voiced the strongest concerns about on Saturday rather than this tournament’s hosts.
Fears about discriminatory abuse at games have dogged Russia’s preparations for the 2018 World Cup and the current eight-team warm-up tournament. A report covering last season in Russian soccer from European anti-discrimination group FARE highlighted 89 racist and far-right incidents at games.
Any incidents during the Confederations Cup could see the referees abandon games after warnings have been broadcast in stadiums. It’s the procedure that is not always followed elsewhere in Europe, despite being demanded long ago by European soccer’s governing body UEFA.
“Obviously I play in Italy where these things unfortunately happen quite often,” Ruediger said. “For me I’m simply saying that we are in 2017 and these things should not still be happening.”
Lazio escaped with a fine when its fans directed jeers and monkey chants at Ruediger during a game last season rather than being forced to close part of its stadium for a match.
“You can see so many posters saying ‘No to racism’ but nothing really happens (against it) in Italy,” Ruediger said. “In several games fans have shouted (monkey chants) to me but still nothing has happened. It’s simply incomprehensible for me.”
Eradicating the problem requires speaking out, according to Ruediger, to pressurize competitions organizers to come down harshly on the perpetrators of abuse.
“I find it’s easy for other people who don’t have the same skin color as me to say that we should stay quiet,” Ruediger said. “They will never know how it feels (to be racially abused). Therefore my opinion is that this needs to be dealt with strongly.”
Germany’s Confederations Cup campaign opens against Australia in the Black Sea resort of Sochi where people in blackface wearing African clothing and carrying bananas marched in a government-parade last month.
ROB HARRIS, AP Global Soccer Writer