The next time you hear someone complain about the crowd at your usual American sporting event, you can take some solstice in the fact that, at least, crowds aren't chanting racial slurs.

Earlier this month, Hungary's soccer federation fined Ujpest FC $23,250 because its fans chanted anti-Semitic slurs during a league match. The federation also suspended the referee for failing to take action.

Last month, Messina's Ivory Coast defender Marc Zoro was reduced to tears by Inter Milan fans' racist slurs and boos in the Italian league and threatened to walk off the field. Some Inter Milan supporters shouted racist abuse again in the next match.

This sort of thing is the not-so-secret shame of European soccer. HBO's Real Sports did a story on this a few months ago where they spoke with Thierry Henry, one of the world's top players, who was near tears describing some of the insults he's had to withstand. You haven't really been shocked by behavior at a sporting event until you've seen video of fans throwing bananas at black players or making monkey noises when they touch the ball.

FIFA, the world governing body of soccer, has been vowing a crackdown. But just last week, Lazio forward Paolo Di Canio made a fascist salute during a match. he was given a one-match ban. Sepp Blatter, the head of FIFA, is looking for more.

Blatter said legal experts at world soccer's governing body would decide in January what measures are needed to strengthen FIFA's anti-racism laws. National soccer federations will then vote on the proposed regulations at FIFA's annual congress next year.

"We need to start to deduct points from the team," Blatter said Tuesday. "It could also mean suspension. It could also mean exclusion."

Soccer for much of its history has been an outlet for feelings and opinions that can't be expressed in normal settings. But the same can be said of sports in America, and somehow we don't still have this problem.

Race is still a huge, huge problem here. But at least in this one area, we seem to be at least a little bit ahead of the game.

AuthorMark McClusky