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Racism in football is not okay, this includes social media

by Paddy Higgs on Jan 19, 2012

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The dust has settled, and the Brisbane Roar, Sydney FC and Football Federation Australia are dealing with Saturday night's drama in their own ways.

Ugly as the scenes were, it was impossible to look away as bare-chested Roar striker Besart Berisha attempted to coax Sydney defender Pascal Bosschaart into the tunnel to settle things mano-a-mano.

Sky Blues goalkeeper coach Željko Kalac - in his role as a The World Game pundit - emphasized on Monday that there had been no racial element to the incident between Bosschaart and Berisha, and there has been nothing yet to suggest otherwise from the Roar. Sadly, however, Kalac is not as right as he seems.

While the clubs and the A-League's governing body dealt with it judiciously, a handful of comments that sprung up on Twitter like poison toadstools were rather less diplomatic.

As Sydney and Brisbane fans took to their accounts to defend their players and teams, it was clear that, for some, boiling blood had overcome reason. It was the use of the word 'gypsy' when referring to Berisha that stood out most.

Some argue that the term tends to fall into that grey area of discrimination, and FIFA may tend to agree.

Former Inter Milan defender Sinisa Mihajlović claimed in 2000 that he was called a 'gypsy shit' by then-Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira. An ethnic gypsy, Mihajlović admitted calling Vieira a 'black piece of shit' in reply. It was the latter comment - and not the initial insult from Vieira - that drew the attention of the Italian authorities.

Regardless of where the word lies, however, the downright derogatory way it was used in the aftermath of the Berisha incident was clear.

There are some who take to social media believing they can hide behind their keyboard, liberal in their criticisms of those who they would not dare face in person. They are now wrong.

The racial abuse of Rangers duo Maurice Edu and Kyle Bartley on Twitter has made the courts in Scotland, with the accuser, Glasgow man Michael Convery, facing two charges relating to racially aggravated harassment.

The move has been widely applauded by many, and will perhaps pave the way for more action to be taken against those fans who cross the line on social media. It should come as a warning to those who, emboldened by the safety of the anonymity of their computer, feel they are safe to make such comments.

Racism has no place in Australian football. Neither do you.