Amateur footage showed a group of Chelsea FC supporters stopping a black Parisian from boarding a Paris Métro carriage and celebrating their self-declared racism, ahead of the UEFA Champions League match against Paris Saint-German on 17 February.
Following the incident the club issued a statement to condemn the actions. It read: “Such behaviour is abhorrent and has no place in football or society.
Club officials also said they are working with police authorities to see if those involved have season tickets or any other connection to the club.
“We will support any criminal action against those involved, and should evidence point to involvement of Chelsea season-ticket holders or members the club will take the strongest possible action against them, including banning orders.” stressed the statement.
The club’s first black player Paul Canoville, who suffered racist abuse from Chelsea supporters when he joined the club, said he was shocked by the incident.
“I was shocked as well as embarrassed and kind of ashamed when I heard it. When I saw that [the film] I was really amazed.
“From everything I’ve been through at Chelsea, with everything the club has done and we have done some tremendous work to try and kick out racism. I see the development and we have cut it down. But it is clearly still around.” said Canoville.
On their social media, Chelsea shared an interview with the Brazilian-born striker Diego Costa about the importance of eradicating all forms of discrimination from football and highlighting Saturday’s Game for Equality against Burnley.
‘As a community, as people, we must look at discrimination with real care, because people suffer from it unnecessarily and it’s important we help one another.’ said the 26-year-old.
English media also suggest that the club’s manager José Mourinho will speak out against the fans’ actions in tomorrow’s pre-match press conference.
‘Extremely disturbing and very worrying’
Speaking about the incident, the UK Prime Minister David Cameron described it as ‘extremely disturbing and very worrying’.
“I know the British police will give every assistance that they can. I’m sure Chelsea will co-operate with that fully. These are very, very serious matters.” he stressed.
In football, Queen Park Rangers Chris Ramsey, currently the Premier League’s only black manager, called upon the respective authorities to identify the perpetrators.
“I want to focus on what happened in that situation in Paris so everyone shines a spotlight on that and that doesn’t happen again. It would be good to know what the authorities are going to do to weed these people out and what sanctioned they will enforce to make this an avoidable situation in the future.
“I would encourage people to make sure that the perpetrators are known and try to eradicate it,” said Ramsey.
FIFA, UEFA, Fare, the English Professional Footballers Association and Kick it Out, the anti-discrimination leading organisation in English football, also addressed the incident.
On twitter, FIFA president Joseph Blatter condemned the incident, while UEFA said to be ‘appalled’ it.
“We are appalled by the incident which took place in the Paris Metro on Tuesday.” read a UEFA statement, explaining that “As it occurred away from the stadium, it is outside UEFA’s remit to act,
“It is a matter for the local authorities to investigate further and UEFA supports any action that is taken.”.
Fare and Kick it Out highlight call for action
Kick It Out chairman Lord Ouseley condemned the incident and called for football to avoid complacency over incidents of a similar nature.
Lord Ouseley said: “We know that prejudice is on the increase and that in itself leads to hateful attitudes and this sort of conduct.
“[The incident] Clearly it sends out a strong signal to, not only Chelsea, but the whole of football, that you cannot be complacent and think the actions you’re taking are sufficient to deal with the scourge of racism, sexism, homophobia and anti-Semitism. We’ve got to do a lot more and not be complacent.”
Fare executive director Piara Powar said the incident is a consequence of a wider problem in football: “We are seeing a lot of football leaders who are making racist comments.
There’s a whole range of people in prominent positions in football who are making out and out racist comments. The comments by Arrigo Sacchi and before Sacchi we’ve had Carlo Tavecchio, Willy Sagnol, Dave Whelan, Malky Mackay.
One feels that this is one of the things that keeps the link between racism and football alive.
If these guys are prosecuted in a criminal court they might argue ‘well, we hear this going on at top level, why can’t we express similar sentiments?’
This is the big challenge that football has: how do you deal with the big issue of racism at the top level, from football leaders across Europe, and therefore begin to unpick the wider issues of racism that we have?”
‘These English fans must be found, punished and must be imprisoned’
The French-Mauritian man racially abused by Chelsea fans, named as Souleymane, has also addressed the incident and called on authorities to find and punish the perpetrators.
Speaking about the incident he said:”I wanted to get into the car but a group of English fans [was] blocking me and pushed me away […] They told me things in English but I did not really understand the meaning of their words.
“I understand also that they were attacking me because of the colour of my skin. You know, I live with racism, I was not really surprised by what happened to me even if it was a first in the subway.”
He also added that discussing the issue had given him “the courage to complain to the police”: “I’ll try to do it [on Thursday] if I have the time, because I also work.
“In any case, I intend to turn to anti-racist associations . These people, these English fans must be found, punished and must be imprisoned.”
French police launch investigation
The Paris prosecutor’s office has announced the launch of an investigation to find the Chelsea fans responsible for chanting “we’re racist and that’s the way we like it”.
The Metropolitan Police in London have appealed for anyone with information to come forward and said in a statement that they “took offences of this nature seriously no matter where they occur.”
Meanwhile, a Chelsea fan filmed while the racist chants were shouted has been identified as a supporter of the right-wing party The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). However, it is still unclear if the Chelsea season ticket-holder was among those who chanting or remonstrating.
I also condemn the actions of a small group of Chelsea fans in Paris. There is no place for racism in football!
— Joseph S Blatter (@SeppBlatter) February 18, 2015