In what has become an all too familiar routine in European soccer, UEFA, the governing body in charge of the sport on the continent, has again filed charges against a club after fans allegedly directed racist taunts toward an opposing player. This time, it’s Italian side AS Roma that’s at fault after fans of the Serie A team were heard taunting Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger, who formerly played for Roma, with monkey chants during their 3-3 Champions League draw Wednesday.
“Disciplinary proceedings have been opened,” UEFA said in a short statement released by its disciplinary arm Friday.
Citing a violation of UEFA Article 14 of the Disciplinary Regulations, it charged Roma with “racist behavior (monkey chants).”
“This case will be dealt with by the UEFA Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body on 16 November,” the statement concluded.
Unlike many other cases, it wasn’t the opposing club that brought the allegations to UEFA. Instead, the Guardian reports, UEFA used social media to uncover the offending action. As the match unfolded Wednesday, hundreds of spectators mentioned the racist chants on Twitter.
The chants began late in the match when Rudiger came on as a substitute in the 77th minute. They got the loudest, according to spectators on social media, when the 24-year-old German national had possession of the ball.
Rudiger has since commented on the game on social media, but he has not mentioned the racist chants.
Rudiger has spoken up about racism before, noting the problem is especially bad in Italian soccer. He even cited it as a reason he decided to leave the club for Chelsea this summer.
“Racism is a serious issue here,” he told Germany’s SportBild in May, referring to previous incidents involving himself and other players in the Italian league. “[These incidents] simply happen too often in this country, and that is why something must happen now.”
One of the most distressing situations occurred earlier that month, when Pescara midfielder Sulley Muntari was given a yellow card for approaching the referee to complain about racist chants opposing fans from Cagliari directed toward him. Muntari walked off the field in protest, which earned him a one-match ban from Italy’s Football Association. Cagliari escaped sanctions after the FA determined the chants came “only from around 10 people.”
“It’s really, really difficult to talk about it,” Muntari told CNN a week after the incident in May, noting he deals with racism in nearly every game. “I always say I’m a tough guy on the field, but when it comes out of the field, I really get emotional sometimes. I’m human. . . . Italian football is one of the best in the world . . . and this shouldn’t happen to Italian football.”
For its part, FIFA said it stood in “full solidarity with Muntari,” according to the Associated Press, however, beyond words, the sport’s international governing body has done little to quell racist fan behavior in many regions, including Italy and Central and Eastern Europe, where the frequency and severity of these incidents have resulted in games having to be played in empty stadiums.
FIFA disbanded its anti-racism task force just three years after it was initiated in 2013, partly because of an incident involving another Italian side’s fans who taunted then-AC Milan midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng so badly, all the players walked off the pitch. The reasoning for the disbandment, according to Gerd Dembowski, FIFA’s diversity and anti-discrimination manager, is because it was never meant to be a permanent organization, but “develop recommendations for FIFA.”
“We are therefore delighted to inform you that all of the task force’s recommendations have been implemented and all resulting projects are ongoing,” Dembowski wrote.
The most prominent of those projects, however, the “Say No to Racism” campaign, has been only marginally successful at best, some players have said. One of those critics is Rudiger.
“It is easy to come up with the ‘No to Racism’ campaign, but when you don’t do anything concrete, then that does not help,” he told SportBild. “FIFA must act.”