"Say No To Racism!"
Mario Balotelli is one of soccer's most dynamic and talented goal scoring players. He wears his emotions on his sleeve and his passion was on full display early this year when cameras caught Balotelli in tears on the bench moments after leaving a game. Reports surfaced that Balotelli's emotional display was in reaction to fans that had directed racist chants towards him. His coach and teammates downplayed Balotelli's tears, but it is no secret that the twenty-three year old Balotelli has been a victim of discrimination from soccer fans. Just last month, as the Italian national team was preparing for the World Cup, police officers were dispatched to disperse a group of fans who were harassing Balotelli, the son of Ghanian immigrants.
Balotelli is not the first soccer player who has been vilified for his race. Last year, Kevin Prince Boateng booted the soccer ball into the stands and walked off the pitch in protest after fans in the stadium started directing racist chants towards him. His teammates and coaches followed him off field, prompting FIFA to invite Boateng to join a task force to address racism in soccer. Racism and discrimination "[are] not part of football. It's not part of any sport and it's not part of life. There are so many supportive songs you can sing at a stadium," explained Boateng to FIFA.com last year.
FIFA has addressed racism in the past with billboards throughout stadiums advertising FIFA's strict stance against racism. Since 2001, FIFA has implemented Anti-Discrimination Days during high-profile international competitions. Before games, team captains read a declaration against discrimination then take a picture of both teams, their coaches, and the referees standing around banner that reads "Say No To Racism." This allows FIFA to send an unequivocal message against discrimination.
With the World Cup underway, FIFA has a golden opportunity to ramp up its campaign against discrimination and truly demonstrate that "joga bonito" (the beautiful game) extends far beyond the soccer pitch.