It is time for a more honest approach to dealing with violence and provocation in football. Too many times the only thing that is punished is a footballer’s reaction when the provoker is allowed to walk free. I know, (and so does he) that what Zidane did in the World Cup final was wrong but the fact of the matter is he would not have done it if he hadn’t been provoked. Surely that is the more terrible action, provoking a man to violence and not the reaction to the provocation? A lot of footballers put up with terrible comments thrown at them from the often racist public and from other footballers on opposing teams. Punishing footballers for reacting violently to provocation will not stop the incidents – they aren’t saints for God’s sake. But if footballers and fans know that they will be punished until it hurts for hurling racist abuse (on the part of fans usually) and for provoking other footballers by abusing their family members then there would be a severe drop in the incidents.
I’ve long believed that when you have a whole stadium of arseholes yelling racist abuse at some players, the punishment should be that the match is immediately ended, with a forfeit to the other team. If a team knows it will lose matches and points because it’s supporters are racist, they will work even harder to get rid of that type of following.