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FIFA Questions 2018 Russian World Cup Due To Racism

"We can't have a World Cup there under the current conditions," FIFA's Vice President Jeffrey Webb told ESPN.

by Olivia Becker
Mar 14 2015, 7:00pm

Ivan Sekretarev/AP

Racism surrounding football in Russia poses a "huge challenge" to the 2018 World Cup, according to FIFA's Vice President Jeffrey Webb.

In an interview with ESPN on Thursday, Webb - who is also in charge of FIFA's Anti-Racism and Discrimination Task Force - said that, "We can't have a World Cup there under the current conditions."

"Russia poses a huge challenge for FIFA and the World Cup from a racism standpoint," Webb added.

There have been multiple racism-related controversies during Russian soccer games over recent years that have drawn international attention and have raised the question of whether Russia will still be allowed to hold the tournament in 2018.

Last year, fans of the Moscow CSKA team chanted racist slurs during a match against Manchester City. A year earlier, fans of Torpedo Moscow threw bananas at player Christopher Samba, who is from Congo, during a game against another rival Moscow team.

Related: Ukrainian Soccer Fans Accused of Acting Like 'Rabid Dogs' After Match in Kiev Descends Into Chaos

FIFA has addressed the problem of racism in stadiums by forming a committee tasked with educational measures and led by Webb.

"From our task force standpoint, we now have a dedicated staff who works with us on racism, and they're working very closely with Russia to implement and execute education programs," said Webb.

"It's a huge opportunity to influence some change and we better influence some change over the next three years," said Webb.

Incidents of racism in Russian football games became such an issue that an independent Russian anti-discrimination organization released a report last month investigating the problem. The report, titled "Time For Action" found more than 200 incidents of discriminatory behavior related to Russian fans since 2012.

According to the report, racist attacks have been occurring in Russian football for years, largely due to the "high levels of ethnic xenophobia in Russian society in general which have been developing intensively since the early 2000s."

The extremist attacks often come from neo-Nazi and other far-right fans targeting minority players who are either black or come from the Caucasus regions.

Related: 'We're Racist and That's the Way We Like it': Police Probe Video of Soccer Fans Pushing Black Man off Paris Metro

FIFA's president Sepp Blatter told the Associated Press he was "concerned" with the report's findings.

This is not the first time that FIFA has had to address racism ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Last October, following the incident in which Moscow fans yelled racist slurs at Manchester City and Ivory Coast player, Yaya Touré, Blatter pointed towards the education taskforce chaired by Webb to help resolve the issue.

"We are dealing now with actual problems," said Blatter last year, according to the Guardian. "We are not dealing with the problems that may happen somewhere in the world. It is the question of racism today and I'm dealing with that today. And we will go back to the [FIFA] executive committee with what the situation is actually and what came with the last incidents we have had [in Russia]."

Although FIFA has agreed to monitor and potentially sanction teams whose fans engage in racist acts during games, it is unlikely that Russia's ability to host the World Cup will be revoked due to discrimination.

"I have never said they have to take the competition out [of the country] because you cannot take a whole competition out," Blatter added. "I have to insist that racism and discrimination is in our society," he added. "It's our society that brought it in football and now we have to fight against that in our football. But we can only fight it in our football. We cannot go to any society where something happened and to ask them to stop. This is not the duty or the responsibility or even the right of FIFA to do so."

Follow Olivia Becker on Twitter: @obecker928

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