Cesc Fabregas hopes the indefensible discriminatory behaviour of some Chelsea supporters can highlight the issue to help eradicate it in football and beyond.
Chelsea and the Metropolitan Police opened investigations after alleged racist abuse was directed at Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling by a section of home supporters during last Saturday’s match at Stamford Bridge. Four Blues fans were subsequently suspended.
However, minutes into the Blues’ next game – Thursday night’s Europa League clash with Vidi in Budapest’s Groupama Arena, which was drawn 2-2 – a vocal minority of Chelsea supporters were heard singing a derogatory chant about Tottenham supporters, featuring anti-Semitic language.
Anti-discrimination leaders and Jewish groups have joined Chelsea in strongly criticising the chanting, which UEFA is sure to investigate, and Fabregas joined the condemnation
“If we have to be taught a lesson at Chelsea to improve whatever happens around the world, then I’m happy,” midfielder Fabregas said.
“But to point the finger at one football club because of three or four of these people, I don’t think it’s deserved and I don’t agree with that.
“The focus now is on Chelsea for what happened. Unfortunately if we look around carefully all over the world, all sports, all football clubs, we will find things like that.
“It’s true it happened this (past) weekend, we cannot deny that, but to point the finger at one football club because of that I think it’s really unfair.
“There’s an investigation, the club is dealing with this very, very well. Whatever needs to be done will be done. I’ve no doubt about that.
“The people that did it (abused Sterling) got caught, they will be punished for it and they will be taught a big lesson in their lives.
“The quicker we get rid of these people, the better. This is not the real face of Chelsea.”
Even if the police find there is not enough evidence to pursue criminal convictions in the abuse of Sterling, Chelsea’s threshold for offences is lower, so the four suspended individuals could see their bans remain in place.
Identifying any individuals involved in the anti-Semitic chanting in Budapest could prove difficult, as, although Chelsea have details for all their 1,200 supporters via their European away ticket scheme, CCTV coverage of the stadium was poor.
Chelsea attacked the “brainpower” of those fans who “shamed the club” at the match in Hungary. The Jewish Leadership Council, Board of Deputies of British Jews and anti-discrimination group Fare supported the club’s stance while attacking the perpetrators.
Piara Powar, executive director of Fare, described the episode as a “sad indictment” of the ignorance of some supporters.
In a statement issued to Football Paradise, Powar said: “This latest incident involving Chelsea fans singing anti-Semitic songs in Budapest is a sad indictment of where some people are in their understanding of racism and the impact it can have.
“They stare history in the face and think they are somehow exempt from the judgements it will make on their actions.
“We should give a lot of credit to those Chelsea fans who highlighted what was going on at the match on social media or directly to the authorities.
“The sad fact is that in recent years Chelsea have done an incredible amount of work to tackle anti-Semitism, much of it highly innovative and impactful.
“But there remains throughout football a rump of people who in 2019 will see the political atmosphere as a cover for their own racism and prejudice.”
Chelsea in January launched a campaign to raise awareness and educate about anti-Semitism in football and the club, including owner Roman Abramovich, who is Jewish, are disgusted at the latest incident.
A Chelsea spokesman said on Thursday night: “Anti-Semitism and any other kind of race-related or religious hatred is abhorrent to this club and the overwhelming majority of our fans. It has no place at Chelsea or in any of our communities.
“We have stated this loud and clear on many occasions from the owner, the board, coaches and players.
“Any individuals that can’t summon the brainpower to comprehend this simple message and are found to have shamed the club by used using anti-Semitic or racist words or actions will face the strongest possible action from the club.”
The JLC endorsed Chelsea’s words in a statement on Friday.
Chief executive Simon Johnson said: “The latest anti-Semitic incident is thoroughly depressing, especially in light of the dedicated work that Chelsea FC has done to address the problem.
“We completely endorse the club’s strong statement and would support them in any robust action which they now take against the perpetrators.”
Board of Deputies vice-president Amanda Bowman added in a statement: “This disgraceful behaviour must be challenged and the perpetrators identified and punished. The Board of Deputies is fully behind Chelsea’s ‘Say No to Anti-Semitism’ campaign launched this year.
“However, this incident and the abuse aimed at Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling last Saturday demonstrate that football still has much work to do before racism on the terraces is eradicated.”
Chelsea play at Brighton in the Premier League on Sunday, with the behaviour of the supporters likely to be under close scrutiny once again.