Progressively Speaking: Is football doing enough to stamp out racism?
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Progressively Speaking: Is football doing enough to stamp out racism?

Liberal Judaism's Rabbi Charley Baginsky takes a topical issue and applies a progressive response

Rabbi Charley Baginsky

Last week we read Bereishit – the first parasha of the Torah – which teaches that everyone is made in God’s image.

The Talmud teaches us that all people come from one descendent, so no one person can say their ancestor was greater. This central belief in equality compels us to action in the face of all forms of racism.

When England recently faced Bulgaria for the qualifying match for Euro 2020, black English players were booed and people shouted monkey chants. There were also people making Nazi salutes and screaming virulent abuse.

The game was paused twice in the first half after England complained to the referee, who then followed UEFA’s new protocol. England could have called the game to a halt at this point, but decided to play on.

Protocol is one thing, and certainly welcomed, but real leadership and dramatic action is what is really needed. UEFA should do more.

There must be meaningful sanctions for racial abuse, and there is a strong argument that clubs and countries should be expelled from tournaments. But we also cannot abdicate responsibility – some of the players noted they were able to deal with the abuse because they were so used it back home.

Almost a year ago, award-winning Czech documentary maker, Pavel Štingl, released Football: A Century of Fouls, which examined the sport’s relationship with fascism when the country was under Nazi occupation.

His aim was to counter prejudice by recalling the involvement of Jewish players, coaches and administrators in Czech football’s development. It features images of Sparta and Slavia players giving Nazi salutes before a wartime derby match.

Štingl said he was spurred on by the failure of the government and football authorities to tackle the problem – all the more urgent, he says, given Prague’s history as a city from where an estimated 50,000 Jews were transported to Nazi death camps.

Football fans, as well as those who aren’t fans, must all stand together against all forms of racism. We must also demand action is taken on every single level and that education initiatives such as Štingl’s are sought at every opportunity.

No racism is acceptable and any racism affects us all.

  •  Rabbi Charley Baginsky is Liberal Judaism’s director of strategy and partnerships
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