STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - French World Cup winner Lilian Thuram has criticized FIFA’s decision to dissolve its anti-racism task force, telling Reuters he found the decision “shocking”.
FIFA wrote to members in September to say it was disbanding the task force set up by then boss Sepp Blatter in 2013, and declaring that it had “completely fulfilled its temporary mission”.
The former world and European champion and Serie A winner let fly at soccer’s world governing body.
“I am extremely shocked that such an important organization that can reach millions of people, especially children, can say in 2016, in this global political situation, ‘the job is done’,” he told Reuters in Stockholm, where he was speaking on the subject of racism for his Lilian Thuram Foundation.
“It’s very, very shocking.”
After speaking to an invited audience about hearing monkey noises from the terraces as a player in Italy, the former AS Monaco, Parma, Juventus and Barcelona defender attacked the signals being sent by FIFA.
“There is a symbolism in them saying that, that ‘this is no longer important to us’. It (racism) is a recurring problem in our societies.
“We must be on our guard and start to change the way we think, especially as football is an incredibly good way to get people to think differently. Football and sport are the best ways to reach that result.”
The 44-year-old Thuram, who was born in Guadeloupe before moving to Paris at the age of nine, said he would continue his own work to combat racism in the game.
“My foundation, which aims to create more brotherhood in our society, continues its work, regardless of what FIFA does. But the more people we are the better, especially in an organization such as FIFA.”
He doubted, however, that FIFA would change its mind.
“If FIFA say that their project is over, they have thought it through and it is very sad that they have reached that conclusion.”
Thuram’s career ended in 2008 when a heart condition was discovered in conjunction with a proposed move to Paris Saint Germain and since then he has devoted himself to fighting racism through discussion and the education of young people.
Despite the recent rise of populist and far-right parties and candidates in Europe and the United States, Thuram said there was less racism today than previously.
“People are conditioned in a certain direction,” he explained. “To see it as there being more and more racism in society is to not understand the history of racism.
“You say that because you don’t see that, not so long ago, there were people suffering under apartheid because they were the wrong color, segregation based on skin color, colonies based on skin color, and today that is not the case.”
The Frenchman said that though he had experienced racism in his own career both on and off the field, it was not something that bothered him unduly.
“I had no problem realizing that it was them that had the problem, not me,” he said.
Editing by Clare Fallon