Sulley Muntari: Standing for his Rights



The Ghanaian footballer Sulley Muntari has said that he believes football bodies like Fifa and Uefa are ‘not taking racism seriously.’

During a match against Cagliari, the Pescara midfielder had complained to the referee about racist abuse he was getting from the opposing team’s fans, but instead of halting the game, the referee handed Muntari a yellow card.  In anger, Muntari left the pitch and refused to play the remainder of the game.  The Displinary Commission then issued him with a one match ban for his actions.  

The ban was met with incredulity and outrage from FIFPro, the players’ union, which issued a statement of support for Muntari:

‘No player should ever feel the need to take matters into his own hands, as Muntari clearly felt obliged to do [...] Professional footballers should expect to be adequately protected by the relevant authorities in a place of work that does not tolerate discrimination of any kind.’

Following the backlash, the Italian football authorities rescinded Muntari’s suspension.  FIFA have since said that they are taking the case seriously and will take ‘appropriate action’ against the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) if necessary.

However, talking to the BBC, Muntari said that racism is ‘everywhere and getting worse,’ and he called for other players to go on strike if necessary to combat it:

‘If I had this problem today, tomorrow or the next game I would go off again.  And I’d recommend it to others.  If they are not feeling it they should walk off.’

Despite statements of solidarity from Fifa and Uefa, Muntari feels that the organisations ‘only care about what they want to care about.  If they want to fight racism they should be able to jump right in and tackle it.’  He was more optimistic, however, about the new Fifa president, Gianni Infantino, who Muntari believes is willing to and capable of fighting racism in football.

This case demonstrates that despite attempts to eradicate discrimination in football (i.e. heftier sanctions and improved monitoring), there is still a long way to go.  Hopefully, Muntari’s poor treatment will encourage Fifa and Uefa to take greater action against racist behaviour from both fans and authorities. 

Talia Robinson