Racism still tarnishing the game, says Thuram
Stockholm: Soccer has still not dealt with racism, according to France`s former World Cup winner Lilian Thuram who is also concerned at the rise of right-wing parties in the European elections.
As France takes stock of the election which saw the National Front secure 25 percent of the vote, Thuram said he was dismayed at the lack of progress in stamping out racism in the game and said the togetherness of 1998 no longer exists.
"Football hasn`t found an answer in the last 30 years, and that is the responsibility of those that run the game," the 42-year-old former Monaco, Parma, Juventus and Barcelona defender told Reuters in Stockholm where he was speaking for his Lilian Thuram Foundation.
"Racism in football has unfortunately been around for a long time, and football hasn`t found the right solution to rid itself of it."
"Take the example of Dani Alves," he added, referring to a recent incident where Barcelona`s Brazilian full back picked up a banana that was thrown at him and took a bite out of it before getting on with the game.
"The whole world thinks that his gesture of eating the banana was very good, but what he did wasn`t the most important -- the most important thing is that the referees didn`t do anything.
"It would have sent a very strong message if they had condemned it. The awful thing is that when I was young I saw bananas thrown at black players on TV, and it`s still going on."
Capped 142 times for France, Thuram said that he had experienced fans making monkey noises at him as a player, but that racism was not a problem among fellow players.
"Football itself helps to combat racism, as it`s starting point is to create relationships between players. Because it`s a game, you quickly forget skin colour, religion, our origins," he said.
"It`s very difficult to have such opinions in the dressing room as you`re very tightly knit and close to one another, and generally racism occurs when people aren`t that close.
"We play together, we have a shared goal. Football is important, but I would like to see the organisations around football do a lot more."
Born in Guadeloupe in 1972, Thuram and his family moved to France in 1981, and having made his international debut in 1994 he went on to play a major part in the French side that won the 1998 World Cup on home soil.
Thuram`s only two international goals in his 142 caps both came in the 2-1 semi-final victory against Croatia, booking his side a spot in the final, where they beat Brazil 3-0 in Paris.
Since retiring in 2008 because of a heart defect, Thuram has dedicated himself to the work of his foundation, which aims to use education as a tool to defeat racism.
With France`s far-right National Front gaining strength, Thuram said that the feeling of togetherness that came with the 1998 World Cup win had been tempered by the consequences of the economic crisis.
"If the financial situation was better, fewer people would be attracted to these parties, but now we can see why racism exists," he said. "Racism essentially is the power to disqualify certain people. People want an advantage, so they say `we will disqualify these people so that I can compete.`"
"I believe that those who are attracted to parties like the National Front are very weak people. They are afraid of competition from others."
France have been drawn in Group E in Brazil, where they will meet Honduras, Switzerland and Ecuador.
After a woeful and bitter 2010 World Cup, Thuram said France had the potential to challenge for the title, providing the squad was unified.
"The French national team is very good, with a lot of good players. I hope it`s going to work well. There`s a lot of teams at the start with the capacity to win the whole thing," he said.
I hope they get a good feeling in the group, a feeling of belonging, so that they can go a long way."