Federico Addiechi, FIFA’s Head of Sustainability and Diversity, Alexey Smertin, Football Union of Russia’s anti-discrimination officer and FIFA World Cup ambassador, Piara Powar, Executive Director of the FARE Network, and FIFA legend Geremi Njitap were into the panel discussion on diversity and anti-discrimination.
FIFA has introduced specific measures aimed at fighting all forms of discrimination and promoting diversity in football. For the first time in the history of the World Cup, an anti-discrimination monitoring system has been put in place. FIFA analysed these measures and the results achieved so far during the panel discussion.
Geremi, a 118-times capped former Cameroon international, was among the first to speak about his own experiences of discrimination. “You ask yourself questions. ‘Why me?’ ‘What is the problem?’ So I’m very happy to be here to talk about this issue,” he said. “I see that we talk a lot more about this today than in the past. Players, coaches, FIFA and NGOs have seized the issue. Football can do a lot for respect and unity. Everyone here, be it the players, the coaches, the media: we must all come together to condemn this scourge that undermines football.”
Powar went into more specifics in assessing Russia 2018 from FARE’s standpoint, saying that in most cases expectations had been exceeded. “Our experience has largely been a positive one,” he said. “In general terms, I think we can all see that a World Cup is a special environment and a multi-national coming together. If you come to a tournament like this with prejudices, not liking people from a certain nationality, then you are in the wrong place. I think we’ve seen that played out and the Russian people have played a magnificent role in making people feel welcome.”
Powar did report flagging up a number of incidents of sexism, saying that “some women – often Russian women – and female reporters have found themselves accosted by fans”. The general picture was positive nonetheless, and Addiechi echoed the sentiments of FARE’s Executive Director.
“As Piara was saying, we’ve all witnessed a very welcoming and friendly World Cup, with very hospitable hosts in every one of the Host Cities,” said FIFA’s Head of Sustainability and Diversity. “Some of the bad publicity this World Cup had beforehand, particularly in the area of discrimination, has been proven completely wrong. And where there have been issues, FIFA and the Local Organising Committee have been able to intervene. The mechanisms we had in place have enabled us to address these in the best possible way.”
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