French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet has said racism “does not exist” in football despite numerous incidents of racist abuse of players across league over the past few years.
Neymar was sent off after a fight broke out on the pitch and later tweeted claiming he was called a racial slur during the game.
“VAR catching my ‘aggression’ is easy,” the tweet began. “Now I want to see the image of the racist calling me a ‘monkey motherf—er’… this is what I want to see!”
In an interview with BFM Business Le Graet said the problem with racism in football is overblown.
“When a black player scores a goal, the whole stadium is on its feet. This phenomenon of racism in sport, and in football in particular, does not exist at all or barely exists.
“It is a match that the entirety of France was anticipating, It went badly. The behaviour of the players was not exemplary. We deplore that. It is a shame. They were not able to keep their cool, nor give the show that we were expecting.”
PSG released a statement on Monday acknowledging Neymar’s claim. “Paris Saint-Germain strongly supports Neymar Jr. who reported being subjected to racist abuse by an opposing player,” said the club.
“The club restates that there is no place for racism in society, in football or in our lives and calls on everyone to speak out against all forms of racism throughout the world.
“For more than 15 years the club has been strongly committed to the fight against all forms of discrimination alongside its partners SOS Racisme, Licra and Sportitude.”
Marseille issued a statement on Monday which said the club stands firm on the struggle against racism: “Alvaro Gonzalez is not racist, as he has shown through his daily behavior since joining the club, and as his teammates have already confirmed.
“The Club remains at the disposal of the disciplinary committee to fully cooperate in the investigation of all the events that occurred in the match, and the 24 hours which followed.
“Olympique de Marseille is the very symbol of anti-racism in French professional sport, given its history and that of the city of Marseille, who’s diversity stands firm in the relentless struggle against racism. Its players demonstrate this in their daily commitment on and off the field.”
In 2018, the Russian Football Union was fined following discriminatory chants during a friendly against the French national team, which Le Graet oversees, in St. Petersburg. Paul Pogba and Ousmane Dembele were seemingly targeted by monkey chants from a section of the home crowd.
England’s anti-racism and pro-inclusion group for the sport, Kick It Out, released statistics for the 2018-19 season demonstrating that reports of discrimination, on the grounds of gender, sexual orientation, religion and race, had increased 32% from the previous season, with racist incidents constituting 65% of those reports, the data showed.
And in 2019, UEFA put protocol in place designed to stop the growing number of incidents of racist behaviour by fans at matches.
FIFA and UEFA have imposed a minimum 10-game ban for players for racism or other forms of discrimination, while in English football, the Football Association announced players will be banned for six to twelve games for discriminatory conduct.
Last week, the Premier League announced clubs and match officials will wear a No Room For Racism badge on their shirts this season and continue to take a knee as part of plans to continue to acknowledge the Black Lives Matter movement.