FIFA is said to be investigating claims of racist abuse directed toward French players during the side's 3-1 defeat of Russia in a pre-World Cup friendly on Tuesday night.
Hosted by the forthcoming host of the 2018 World Cup in St. Petersburg, "a Reuters photographer at pitch level ... claims to have heard monkey chants directed at French players on several occasions, including when N’Golo Kante came to the sideline for a throw-in."
According to a statement made the world's governing body, "FIFA is collecting the different match reports and potential evidence in regards to the discriminatory incident reported in the media, including the one from the Fare observer who was present at the game.”
A factor of the upcoming tournament that may invariably mar Russia's attempts at hosting a successful World Cup, the French Sports Minister Laura Flessel-Colovic shared her thoughts on the issue of racism via her Twitter account:
« Le racisme n’a pas sa place sur les terrains de football. Nous devons agir de concert au niveau européen et international afin de faire cesser ces comportements inadmissibles » #FRARUS #exaequo.
Crédits FFF/ Bastien Lheritier. pic.twitter.com/kRB1fbBNjO
— Laura Flessel (@FlesselLaura) March 28, 2018
Translated, the message read: “Racism has no place on soccer fields. We must act together at the European and international level to stop this intolerable behaviour.”
Piara Powar, head of the anti-discrimination Fare Network, reinforced this stance:
So close to the World Cup, questions are being asked as to why it wasn’t dealt with as it occurred during play.
If photographers heard it pitch-side, then there must have been stewards and other officials who also heard it.
If, toward the end of March, these guys don’t know what to do, and they’re not initiating procedures and protocols that exist, then that doesn’t bode very well for the World Cup.
An increasingly dispiriting scenario in which the host of one of the world's largest sporting remains prone to doubts regarding it's ability to handle or stamp out such behaviour, the results of FIFA's investigation are unlikely to induce the changes necessary.