South Korea finally returned to some form on Friday night, defeating Colombia 2-1 in a first win since March and only the second in 2017.
Son Heung-min scored twice, the defence mostly held firm against some world-class players and everyone went home happy.
There’s more to the tale than a good old-fashioned encouraging World Cup warm-up win.
In what became quite a bad-tempered game, something happened which, in the words of Korean captain Ki Sung-yeung, has no place on a football pitch.
Just after the hour at Suwon World Cup Stadium, Colombia midfielder Edwin Cardona was caught on camera performing a ‘slanty-eye’ gesture in the direction of Ki. With millions of Korean viewers watching on television, nobody could deny that the gesture had not happened.
[NO TO RACISM]
Colombia Edwin Cardona is racist?
Match: South Korea vs Colombia pic.twitter.com/rUhrJ7zK2l
— TruePass_Football (@TruePass_Jun) November 10, 2017
The player didn’t try and was soon apologising, of sorts, on the national team’s official twitter account.
“I didn’t mean to disrespect anyone, a country or a race, but if anyone felt offended, or interpreted it in that way, I am sorry,” Cardona said. “I want to say I am not an aggressive person,” said Cardona, who plays for Boca Juniors in Argentina. “I am sorry that something that happened during the game has been misinterpreted.”
— Selección Colombia (@FCFSeleccionCol) November 10, 2017
It is hard to know how it would be possible to misinterpret what the 24 year-old did and a real apology would have been preferable but it still would not have made everything right. A racist gesture is a racist gesture and has no place in football or anywhere else for that matter.
Ki said that such an act was unacceptable and disappointing and the Swansea City midfielder is absolutely correct.
The Korea FA has written to its Colombian counterpart requesting that it take action against Cardona. “We’re taking the necessary procedures with regard to the ungentlemanly gesture of the Colombian player,” a KFA official told Yonhap News Agency.
“The usual practice is to file a complaint with the relevant football association and request a disciplinary measure.”
The KFA has said that it will wait and see what happens in Bogota – the Colombian FA has already written to Seoul apologising for the player’s actions and promising that it will not happen again.
If the promise really is sincere and heartfelt then the Colombian FA certainly should punish the player. Regardless, FIFA has to step in and make a statement that the whole world can see.
Asia-based football lawyer, formerly of the Asian Football Confederation, James Kitching tweeted that there is scope for FIFA to get tough.
Article 71.1 of FIFA Disciplinary Code permits FIFA to intervene in 'serious cases' at friendly matches.
Article 58.1 (a) covers 'discrimination'. Minimum sanction: 5 match suspension, stadium ban, CHF20,000 fine.
— James Kitching (@jrvkfootball) November 11, 2017
What Cardona did is as blatant as it gets. A substantial ban has to be handed out and this should not be limited to friendly games. That would have little impact.
The player should miss the World Cup. Only then will this kind of thing stop. There has to be a powerful message that there is no place for such acts on the football field and if it takes a player missing out on the biggest sports tournament in the world then so be it.
Everyone must know that to perform such racist acts is going to come at a significant cost. And as well as that message, going forward there can be no excuse for ignorance.
This is not an isolated incident. It is not the first time there has been a controversy of players making the same racist gesture in East Asia in 2017.
During the 2017 Under-20 World Cup in June held in South Korea, Uruguay midfielder Federico Valverde did the same gesture after scoring. He said it was a private celebration performed for friends. Also this year, Argentine international Ezequiel Lavezzi, who plays for Chinese team Hebei, apologised after doing something similar in an official photoshoot.
“I had no intention of insulting the Chinese people and did not do it with any bad intentions,” Lavezzi explained. “I’m very happy to be here as part of the Hebei club. I have had a great time here with my team mates and it has been a great journey. Every Chinese person around me is friendly and I love my life here. I deeply apologise if this photo has offended the Chinese public and fans. I will be more careful in the future.”
It is not a case of being careful as it should be quite easy to go through life not doing such gestures.
There should be zero tolerance. Edwin Cardona should not go to the World Cup. Only that would send a message that there is no place for racist acts on a football pitch.