FIFA anti-racism adviser Tokyo Sexwale thinks it is possible that black players could boycott the 2018 World Cup in Russia because of a lack of action by the Russian Football Union to punish racism, he told Rob Harris of the Associated Press.
UEFA has punished teams for racist behavior from players, coaches and fans, but Russia's soccer leaders have not been as active in policing racism. Sexwale said the outside perception of how Russia handles racism could mean trouble for the 2018 World Cup.
"There is a threat black players will say they are not going to Russia (for the World Cup) - we can't have that," Sexwale said Tuesday on the sidelines of the Doha Goals conference. "I am talking as a FIFA person and a citizen of the world - it can't go that far. ... Once these things start and you don't act as leaders, these things snowball."
Sexwale said president Vladimir Putin needs to intervene to avoid a potential boycott.
"Show that leadership, be the Putin the world knows, be tough," said Sexwale, a former South African government minister who is an adviser to FIFA's anti-racism task force. "Failure to do so, we could be talking something different about the 2018 World Cup ... you will have people saying they will not go to Russia."
CSKA Moscow recently won an appeal that reduced its punishment from UEFA for racism from fans. After the appeal, the team's penalty for racism from fans was a €100,000 fine, playing two games in front of empty stadiums, being unable to sell tickets to two Champions League away matches and being placed on probation for five years.
Earlier this week, FC Rostov coach Igor Gamula apologized for saying the club already had "enough dark-skinned players, we've got six of the things," after players threatened to strike.
- Paul Palladino