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Vinicius Junior will help tackle racism in revived task force: FIFA

GENEVA (AP) – Brazil and Real Madrid star Vinícius Júnior has agreed to join a new task force to tackle racism in football, FIFA President Gianni Infantino said on Thursday.

Vinícius, who is Black, has been the target of sustained racist abuse by fans in Spanish stadiums throughout the season, with little done by referees or football bodies to protect him.

That must stop, Infantino said in an Instagram post after he met the player at a Brazil training camp in Barcelona.

“There is no football if there is racism! So let’s stop the games,” Infantino wrote.

“We will also strengthen the engagement with players on this crucial topic so I am glad Vinicius accepted to be part of a task force which will include other important players and will elaborate concrete and efficient measures to end racism in football once and for all.”

Vinícius spoke to reporters for the first time since he was racially abused in a Spanish league match in Valencia last month. He thanked everyone who supported him.

“Everyone has been giving me strength so I can continue in this battle,” he said.

Vinicius Junior reacts towards Valencia fans after being sent off. PHOTO: AP

“We needed someone to stay strong to try to improve this. I want to keep going for all the youngsters and for all the people who suffer with this but don’t have the same voice that I have.” Vinicius did not take any questions from reporters.

FIFA created an anti-racism task force in 2013 after a notorious incident of abuse suffered in Italy by AC Milan midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng, who is Black.

Boateng worked with the task force which FIFA shut down in 2016, months after Infantino was elected.

FIFA said then the task force had “completely fulfilled its temporary mission”.

Shutting down the anti-racism panel had been “a monumental mistake”, one of its members, British-Nigerian journalist Osasu Obayiuwana, said on Thursday.

Infantino said on Thursday that more should be done to enforce football’s current three-step policy to stop games when players are racially abused. The first just requires referees to pause play for a warning to be broadcast to spectators. It has rarely been used. He also called on fans who hurl racial abuse “to be banned from stadiums across the globe”.

“We want to identify racists in stadiums and across social media. They are criminals,” the FIFA leader said. “The authorities need to take these people to court and we will say this to all of them: Racism is a crime.”

FIFA and UEFA work with the anti-discrimination group Fare, which places exobservers at high-risk games in international competitions to gather evidence for disciplinary cases. Such monitoring is rare at domestic games.

Obayiuwana suggested the latest announcement was a public relations exercise after Black players continued to suffer racist abuse for the past seven years.

“I do not see any sincerity in the resurrection of the task force. And it is unfair, in my opinion, to ask Vinicius to be the one to head the body,” he said in a statement to The Associated Press.

“Those who are elected to govern football should, for goodness sake, live up to their responsibilities and deal with racism properly.”

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