Dealing football discrimination on the road to Russia: Here’s how FIFA frames the debate

11 Mar 2018
FIFA headquarters


FIFA is going towards the 2018 World Cup tournament in Russia with a promise to cleanse the football game from discrimination and mainly racism, anti-semitism, homophobia, islamophobia, sexism and xenophobia.

FIFA’s campaign is partly guided by a document titled Global Guide to Discriminatory Practices in Football which amongst other things identifies and defines common discriminatory expressions and practices.

As part of our campaign to shine light on FIFA’s anti-discriminatory initiatives, we present here extracts from the FIFA document that list and define and common discriminatory expressions and practices.

Here follows the FIFA text:

Commonly used discriminatory practices

There are many discriminatory expressions and practices that are used inside stadiums across football confederations that are recurring and heard often.

Most of them are directed at ethnic minorities, LGBT+ people and women:

Monkey noises and/or gestures

Within football, imitating monkey noises or gestures is a racist practice aimed at dehumanising the target and implying inferiority. Related to imitating monkey noises and/ or gestures are actions that include fans showing, throwing or offering a banana to black players.


Blackface refers to the practice of painting one’s face and/ or body in black. It is often seen as a fun and harmless way of caricaturing black people.

The practice was widespread in theatrical performances in the US and other countries in the 19th and 20th centuries. As harmless as it may seem it spreads and reinforces racist stereotypes and generalisations about black people. Regardless of the motivation, it is perceived by many as being racist.

Similar practices of portraying other ethnicities, nationalities and identities by dressing in what is imagined as their traditional costumes, or exacerbating other features attributed to the group, may be seen as, at the very least, spreading xenophobic stereotypes about the group and should be avoided.


Calling black players or fans “gorilla” or “monkey” is a racist practice similar in character to the above.


A racial slur in English-speaking countries that is derogatory towards black people.


A derogatory term used towards homosexual or gender nonconforming males most commonly used in Australia, New Zealand and the UK.

“Faggot (fag)”

A derogatory term used towards homosexual or gender nonconforming males in North America and throughout English-speaking countries.


A slang term for lesbian which when used against female players or fans in a football context has a clear discriminatory connotation. The term has also been used by some lesbians as a word implying assertiveness and toughness, or simply as a neutral term for lesbian.


The use of the term “gypsy” often has a negative connotation and is linked to attributing to a player or fan negative characteristics as part of the racist stereotyping of Roma people.


Anti-Semitism is a “perception of individuals or the Jewish community, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/ or their property, towards Jewish community institutions and religious facilities”. (Fundamental Rights Agency of the European Union, 2005. A definition adopted around the world including by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.)

Homophobia can be defined as an “irrational fear of and aversion to homosexuality and to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) people based on prejudice and similar to racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and sexism”. (European Parliament resolution on homophobia in Europe, 2006)

 Islamophobia is unfounded hostility towards Muslims, and therefore fear or dislike of all or most Muslims. (see Islamophobia: a challenge for us all, Runnymede Trust, 1997, p.1)

Racism is defined by the UN International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination as “…any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life”.

Sexism is “any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field”. (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, United Nations, 1981) Xenophobia is “attitudes, prejudices and behaviour that reject, exclude and often vilify persons, based on the perception that they are outsiders or foreigners to the community, society or national identity”. (NGO Meeting for the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerances, 2001.)

We are highlighting this extract in order to spark critical conversation. Tell us what you think of this frame of anti-discriminatory campaign by FIFA.

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