“Football unites the world,” the International Football Federation (FIFA) often boasts in its campaigns. Meeting at a congress in Bangkok (Thailand), the governing body of world football announced on Friday April 17 that it would not remain idly faced with the scourge of racism. Priority for the year 2024 of its president, Gianni Infantino, who notably spoke with the Madrid player Vinicius Jr, very regularly targeted by racist gestures and remarks in the Spanish championship, FIFA has unveiled five pillars to fight this discriminatory phenomenon which undermines football, the few new features of which will be applied in the 211 affiliated federations.

Players and referees will now be able to signal a gesture or word of a racist nature by forming an X with their hands. This gesture, consisting of crossing the arms in front of the chest, is reminiscent of the greeting of the people of Wakanda popularized by Ryan Coogler’s American film Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2002). The director himself was inspired by the sculptures of the Pharaohs and West Africa, as well as American sign language where this gesture means “love” or “hug”.

Calling for collective action to “eradicate racism”, world football’s governing body also announced that it would now constitute a specific offense in the disciplinary code, with “severe” sanctions, up to and including loss. of a match. The three-step protocol is now made mandatory in all federations. This involves the referee being able to suspend the match, then request that an announcement be made to stop the problematic behavior, then, if it has not stopped, decide to interrupt the match. a “reasonable duration” (5 to 10 minutes in general), before considering permanent interruption if the incriminated behavior continues.

A protocol very rarely applied

Real Madrid star Vinicius Jr is one of the most prominent voices to have tirelessly spoken out against racism in football. Frequently targeted in Spanish stadiums, the 23-year-old Brazilian striker recently burst into tears while speaking at a press conference about this fight against discrimination, for which a symbolic friendly match between Spain and Brazil was organized at the end of March.

Several football matches, particularly in Europe, have been further disrupted in recent weeks by racist incidents in the stands, which sometimes forced referees to interrupt matches. Mike Maignan or Juan Jesus, in Italy, Bukayo Saka in England, Nico Williams or Aurélien Tchouaméni in Spain have, for example, paid the price while the Professional Football League (LFP) has just investigated a case in France involving a Bordeaux player .

Since 2009, referees have had the possibility of interrupting a match in the event of racist gestures or comments. Gianni Infantino dissolved the anti-racism commission within FIFA in 2016, on the grounds that it had achieved its objectives. In anticipation of the 2018 World Cup, the body introduced the three-step approach to racist acts, particularly chants. In reality, this protocol is very rarely applied. And awareness campaigns and posters have since followed one another without success.