Racism is an inherent problem in football. It is not something that is widespread and at first glance it sometimes isn’t obvious, especially to an outsider.
While events of racial abuse have declined significantly since the dark years of the 1980’s, occasionally it rears it’s very ugly head in the beautiful game.
Reports have surfaced that Crystal Palace are investigating claims that on-loan winger Wilfried Zaha was subject to racist abuse at Selhurst Park in last weekends ill-tempered 2-2 draw contested between the two sides.
A fantastic performance on the day from Zaha has now been marred by his charge from the F.A for a one-fingered gesture towards the Leeds fans which has seen him receive a one match ban and £3000 fine. However, after a conversation with the 20-year-old, club officials believe the racial slurs may have provoked the incident.
Crystal Palace manager Ian Holloway, who has also been charged by the F.A over his part in proceedings after the game, is aware of the claims and a number of Zaha’s team mates are also believed to have heard the abuse.
Palace defender Damien Delaney was in the squad against Leeds and took to Twitter to confirm the allegations. He said:
“He (Zaha) received some horrific abuse and some racial abuse for the whole first half.”
Zaha accepted the F.A charge on Tuesday and requested a personal hearing, where the claims of racial abuse may have been brought to the Football Assosciation’s attention. However, the player was still punished.
The England winger, signed for £15 million in January and immediately loaned back to promotion chasers Crystal Palace, apologised for his actions over social networking site Twitter and has been warned by United over his future conduct.
What is perhaps most surprising about this story is how long it has taken for the story to hit the back pages, with racism a huge talking point in football currently after a number of high-profile cases in the past 18 months.
It will be difficult to prove the allegations even if they are true. Having spoken to some Crystal Palace and Leeds fans who were at the game, there are different stories emerging and due to the nature of the case, providing evidence beyond reasonable doubt might be nigh on impossible.
But the F.A have taken a dim view of racism in the past, with both John Terry and Luis Suarez able to testify to this, so the claims certainly won’t be ignored.