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FIFA Dismantled Its Anti-Racism Task Force And Says Its Work Is Done

Despite calls for it to remain intact, FIFA has dismantled its anti-racism task force.

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - JUNE 17:  Teams and Officials Say No To Racism during the FIFA U-20 World Cup Semi Final match between Brazil and Senegal at Christchurch Stadium on June 17, 2015 in Christchurch, New Zealand.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - JUNE 17: Teams and Officials Say No To Racism during the FIFA U-20 World Cup Semi Final match between Brazil and Senegal at Christchurch Stadium on June 17, 2015 in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Jamie McDonald - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

In 2011, while the international football association FIFA was handling two high-profile racism cases, its now-suspended chief Sepp Blatter told CNN that he believed there was “no racism” in international soccer.

At the time, he said that “maybe one of the players towards the other, he has a word or a gesture which is not the correct one, but also the one who is affected by that, he should say it’s a game, we are in a game.”

Two years later, as complaints from soccer teams and players continued to emerge — from fans throwing bananas at black players to racial slurs being exchanged on the pitch — Blatter helped to establish an anti-racism taskforce intended to develop strategies to fight discrimination on the field.

But this week, FIFA secretary general Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura said the anti-racism committee will be disbanded because “it had a specific mandate, which it has fully fulfilled.”

“Its recommendations have now been turned into a program and a strong one,” Samoura said in remarks that came ahead of her presentation of FIFA’s first-ever diversity award on Monday. (For his part, Blatter was suspended from his top post last year over his alleged involvement in a high-profile corruption case.)

Her announcement was immediately greeted with outrage by former FIFA officials who acknowledged some of the task force’s successes but said it still has a long way to go, and that dismantling the committee will only cause more problems in the long-run.

Among its various plans for combatting racism, the committee had ordered more observers to games to report fans if they were taking part in bigoted behavior and called for harsher punishments against officials or players found guilty of discrimination. The committee was never intended to be permanent, and was set up in a temporary manner in order to immediately address challenges facing the organization.

But Jordanian Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, who used to serve as vice president of FIFA, said in a statement on Monday that for the task force “to be disbanded with FIFA considering its work done is extremely worrying.”

“The notion that the current FIFA leadership believe that the task force’s recommendations have been implemented is shameful,” he said. Nigerian former FIFA official Osasu Obayiuwana, who once belonged to the task force, said in a statement that there “remained a lot of very serious work” to be done in combatting racism on and off the field.

But in her remarks at the Soccerex conference in Manchester, England, on Monday, Samoura said that her own presence “is a demonstration that FIFA has a zero tolerance policy against discrimination, not only racism but any kind of discrimination, including violation of human rights.” She is the first woman to hold the position of secretary general in the organization.

“We can live with perceptions, but we are taking very seriously our role as the world governing body of football to fight discrimination,” she said.

Photo credit: FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

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