Racism persists in international sports: UN

"In recent years there have been a number of disgraceful incidents in football stadiums when fans of one team have abused footballers of opposing teams on the basis of their race," UN chief for Human Rights Navi Pillay has said.

Speaking on the occasion of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Pillay noted that 2010 World Cup taking place for first time ever in an African state and specifically in the country which was for so many years a byword for institutionalised racism.?

"The forthcoming Football World Cup in South Africa provides an opportunity both to take a fresh look at the issue of racism in sport, and to enhance sport's tremendous potential to undermine racism, xenophobia and similar forms of intolerance in wider society," she added.

This year's International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination marks the 50th anniversary of the Sharpville massacre where dozens of protesters fighting against apartheid in South Africa were killed by the police.

Pillay asked sports administrators everywhere to follow the example of two of the world's top football authorities, FIFA and UEFA, in pursuing polices to eradicate racism from sport at the local, national and international levels.

"FIFA rules allow for the deduction of points where clubs have not taken sufficient action to combat racism and similar forms of bigotry, but national leagues often shy away from applying these rules," she said.

"The same goes for national teams. On occasions, rich clubs and rich national bodies have escaped with derisory fines of a few thousand dollars after serious racist incidents during matches," she added.

Highlighting the power of sports to being people of different backgrounds together, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said, "Sports can empower disenfranchised communities, influence our perceptions and inspire millions of people around the world."

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