GENEVA (AP) — Players should get yellow cards for covering their mouths to speak to opponents, soccer great Clarence Seedorf told European lawmakers on Wednesday in a forum on hate speech in sports.
Seedorf spoke to the 47-nation Council of Europe hours before UEFA banned a Slavia Prague player for 10 games for racially insulting a Black opponent last month in the Europa League. Ondřej Kúdela covered his mouth with both hands when he spoke into the ear of Ranger player Glen Kamara.
Kúdela denied using racist language, which another Rangers player claimed to have heard. UEFA also banned Kamara for three games for assaulting Kúdela in the tunnel after the game, which Slavia won 2-0.
Seedorf, who is Black, referred lawmakers to “some racist situations” and hate speech among players in recent weeks.
“We are talking about sport, it has to be transparent — so why would I cover my mouth if I need to say something to my adversary?” the former Netherlands midfielder said.
Seedorf said it could be “very easily attacked by implementing some rules” such as showing a yellow card for speaking to a referee or opponent with mouth covered. UEFA can suggest such changes to the FIFA-backed rules-making panel known as IFAB.
Soccer bodies UEFA and FIFA have closed previous disciplinary cases when players say they have been racially abuse by an opponent by citing lack of evidence to support their claims. Violators face “a suspension lasting at least 10 matches or a specified period of time, or any other appropriate sanction,” under UEFA’s disciplinary code.
Seedorf said there was too much talk and not enough action to combat hate speech in soccer stadiums and on the field.
“I cannot be happy to see certain things to change so slowly because the need is obvious and very urgent,” said the former Ajax, Real Madrid and AC Milan midfielder — the only player to win the European Cup with three different clubs.
Citing the killing of George Floyd in the United States last year, Seedorf said soccer and public authorities should give fans incentives to record incidents of racism and hate speech by “capturing those moments” and sending the footage as evidence.
“If it wasn’t for the people around George Floyd, today we would not be speaking and we would not have had a movement around all that happened and we would not have that police officer now going to trial,” Seedorf said.
Seedorf spoke after UEFA official Michele Uva told the forum that the European soccer body wanted to lead by example and work together with public authorities tackling discrimination.
Seedorf later called for more diversity within soccer, citing too few Black coaches at clubs and not enough inclusion within institutions like UEFA and FIFA.
“That is where we need to start as well, where we lead by example,” he said. “From there you have I think a much better position also to ask other people to change.”
The 90-minute event in Strasbourg, France, was hosted by the European body which promotes human rights and the rule of law in Europe.
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