Paris conference reveals shortcomings in opening up football to ethnic minorities22 May 2007

The FARE network conference, 'Football, Ethnic Minorities and Equality', held in Paris on 19th-20th May 2007 brought together over 100 representatives from NGOs, ethnic minority organisations, supporters groups, clubs and governing bodies including UEFA.

Representatives of Brent Ladies Football Club in the UK raised FIFA's ban on wearing the the hijab whilst playing football with UEFA's Director of Communications, William Gaillard, who responded “It's up to the different national associations to determine their actions. It would be very complicated to unify the 53 associations in UEFA on this subject”

He also addressed the issue of the trafficking of young African players, saying “We are told by the European Commission that sport is their (young African players) work, so by changing the laws this would be hindering their right to work in Europe.

“We are also told by the European Commission that sport is no different from any other business but I feel we must protect the human rights of these young players. For all the time they are in Europe, playing or not, they should have a passport for life and be entitled to the same rights as us all.

“UEFA is ready to work with the governing bodies to ensure players are not seen as goods.”

Former Ghana captain Anthony Baffoe urged “We have to create more awareness around the problems ethnic minorities are facing in football and improve representation in the game.”
Baffoe went onto highlight ways forward, saying “It is essential to see more black ambassadors within and involved at the highest level at FIFA, UEFA and CAF.

“The establishment of an African Players Union would help to address many of the problems facing young African players who are being taken to Europe without any knowledge of the situation that is ahead of them.

“The former pros could then pass on their experience and knowledge and advise the families of the youngsters. Essentially, we have to remember that white people alone cannot solve black problems.”

French World Cup winner Christian Karembeu told the conference about his personal experiences of racism in his life and went on to call for the power of the game to be channelled for positive change, stating “Football has to be used as a tool to educate people and counter ills in society.”