Discriminatory Signs and Symbols
Discriminatory signs and symbols
Created by Fare, this Global Guide contains a description of discriminatory practices displayed inside football stadiums around the world in order to help fans, governing bodies and other actors in the game to recognise and stop discriminatory abuse and effectively address it when it occurs. Furthermore, the guide raises awareness among football fans to recognise, understand and avoid intentional or unintentional discriminatory practices.
Check Fare's Guide to Discriminatory Practices in European Football here
For the purposes of this guide, the following definitions are used
Definitions & Commonly Used Discriminatory Practices
is a “perception of individuals or the Jewish community, which may be expressed as hatred towards Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed towards Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/ or their property, towards Jewish community institutions and religious facilities”. (Fundamental Rights Agency of the European Union, 2005. A definition adopted around the world including by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.)
Homophobia can be defined as an “irrational fear of and aversion to homosexuality and to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) people based on prejudice and similar to racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and sexism”. (European Parliament resolution on homophobia in Europe, 2006)
Islamophobia is the prejudice against, hatred towards, or fear of the religion of Islam or Muslims (European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) General Policy Recommendation No. 15, 2015)
Racism is defined by the UN’s International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination as “...any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life”. (International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, OHCHR, 1965)
Sexism is “any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field”. (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, United Nations, 1981)
Xenophobia is “attitudes, prejudices and behaviour that reject, exclude and often vilify persons, based on the perception that they are outsiders or foreigners to the community, society or national identity”. (NGO Meeting for the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerances, 2001.)
Monkey noises and/or gestures
Within football, imitating monkey noises or gestures is a racist practice
aimed at dehumanising the target and implying inferiority. Related to
imitating monkey noises and/ or gestures are actions that include fans
showing, throwing or offering a banana to black players.
Blackface refers to the practice of painting one’s face and/ or body in black. It is often seen as a fun and harmless way of caricaturing black people. The practice was widespread in theatrical performances in the US and other countries in the 19 th and 20 th centuries.
As harmless as it may seem it spreads and reinforces racist stereotypes and generalisations about black people. Regardless of the motivation, it is perceived by many as being racist.
Similar practices of portraying other ethnicities, nationalities and identities by dressing in what is imagined as their traditional costumes, or exacerbating other features attributed to the group, may be seen as, at the very least, spreading xenophobic stereotypes about the group and should be avoided.
Calling black players or fans “gorilla” or “monkey” is a racist practice similar in character to the above – described monkey noises and/or gestures.
A racial slur in English-speaking countries that is derogatory towards black people.
A derogatory term used towards gay or gender non-conforming males most commonly used in Australia, New Zealand and the UK.
A derogatory term used towards gay or gender non-conforming males in North America and throughout English-speaking countries.
A slang term for lesbian which when used against female players or fans in a football context has a clear discriminatory connotation. The term has also been used by some lesbians as a word implying assertiveness and toughness, or simply as a neutral term for lesbian.
The use of the term “gypsy” often has a negative connotation and is linked to attributing to a player or fan negative characteristics as part of the racist stereotyping of Roma people.
Asian Football Confederation (AFC)
Discriminatory practices displayed in football in Asia include verbal abuse of black and ethnic minority players and fans, as well as xenophobic and homophobic abuse. Throughout the region, discrimination is manifested inside stadiums and on social media around matchdays. In East Asia, political tensions between Japan, Korea and China (arising from World War II) and historic revisionism are frequently manifested during football matches. In Australia, homophobic abuse has been recorded on display at both grassroots and professional level. In the Middle East, discrimination manifests itself in the form of racial discrimination towards black players. A significant imbalance in gender equality exists, including a de facto ban on women attending matches in Iran. In both Saudi Arabia and Iran women have been arrested for trying to attend football matches. Political tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran also affect the relationship between other countries in the region and can be manifested through football. Racial discrimination of indigenous, black and ethnic minority players and fans in the AFC region is displayed in different forms, ranging from the use of the N-word to monkey references.
The Oceania Football Confederation (OFC)
Discriminatory incidents in football across the region are mainly displayed at grassroots level. In other sports, such as rugby, discriminatory incidents are recorded at professional level. Racial discrimination of indigenous, black and/ or minority players and fans is displayed in different forms ranging from the N-word to monkey references. Homophobic abuse is commonly displayed through verbal abuse by calling opposing team players or fans “faggot”
The Confederation of African Football (CAF)
Discriminatory practices in the Confederation of African Football (CAF) are displayed differently across the region. Homophobic abuse is commonly witnessed. Discrimination between North Africans and sub- Saharan Africans is witnessed around matches. Across Africa there is a high number of displaced persons, and on some occasions the tensions between the local population and immigrants have resulted in violent attacks on minorities, such as those witnessed in recent years in South Africa. Homophobic abuse is commonly displayed in African football through condemning LGBT+ players by directly linking homosexuality to under- performance of players and teams leading to poor results. Africa has the highest number of countries where LGBT+ rights are minimal and/ or homosexuality is outlawed . 1 Homophobic abuse is often witnessed online or in interviews in traditional media. Across the region, the position of female football players and female fans is marginal. There is documented verbal abuse of female referees as well as reported incidents of the physical abuse of female fans attending matches. In North African countries, racial discrimination is displayed by portraying black players, fans or referees as inferior. Fans and players refer to black players, fans or referees by describing them as monkeys or slaves. Fans also make references to the economic status, physical or living conditions of other ethnic groups in order to enhance negative stereotypes. Referring to players from certain countries as having HIV/ AIDS as part of a xenophobic stereotyping or attributing bad smells to black people have been recorded. Most forms of discriminatory abuse inside stadiums are in the form of verbal abuse.
Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF)
Discriminatory practices in the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF), are played out differently in the Spanish and English-speaking countries of the region. Across the region’s Hispanic countries, social attitudes may often feed off a so-called “machismo” culture. Discriminatory practices linked to this culture may not be perceived as intentional or conscious by the sender, nevertheless they reinforce gender stereotypes and traditional norms. This same culture has been noted in several stadiums with homophobia intrinsically linked to it. Chants and gestures tend to be the most common forms of discriminatory practices, plus occasional banners. In addition to ethnicity, underlying border and migrant issues also play a role in football in the region. In the United States (US), anti-migrant chants have been noted in stadiums by way of anti-Mexican/anti-Latino sentiment at grassroots level in football and in other sports, but have not been recorded in professional football. Nevertheless, existing tensions have to be closely monitored as having potential to be manifested at football competitions. In Mexico, news stories and chants heard outside stadiums at matches against El Salvador refer to “La Bestia” – “the beast” or “the train of death” in English – which reflects an anti-migrant sentiment. 2 In several countries, indigenous peoples and ethnic minority groups are some of the most vulnerable groups and become targets of discrimination inside the stadiums. Commonly displayed discriminatory practices across CONCACAF include homophobic chanting and slurs, monkey noises and gestures, plus other racist and xenophobic remarks
Calling the opposing team players, fans or the referee “puto”, “culero”, “cueco” – all Spanish for “faggot” – is common. These homophobic slurs are often used in football to dismiss straight men as gay and therefore have no legitimate place in the sport. The word “marimacha/o” (Spanish for “lesbo” or “dyke”) – a derogatory term that refers to women who look or act in what is perceived as behaviour not suitable for a woman – has also been witnessed in stadiums. In the Anglosphere, homophobic abuse includes the use of words such as “faggot”. The use of the word “puto”, influenced by the homophobic Mexican chant “eeeh puto”, has also been noted in football matches in the US.
n Hispanic countries, the use of words including “mono”, “simio” and “gorila” – Spanish for “monkey” and “gorilla” – along with monkey gestures are racist practices used against black players. Expressions including “negro”, “negro de mierda”, “mono negro”, “simio de mierda”, “esclavo de mierda” – (in English, “N-word”, “shitty black/N-word”, “black monkey”, “shitty monkey” and “shitty slave”) – are all used to degrade black players and diminish their worth. Another example of this is the expression “negro muerto de hambre” – roughly translated as “N-word beggar” in English.
In some of the region’s Latin American countries, sexist remarks inside stadiums include “¡qué tetas!” – “nice tits” – or expressions such as “¡Qué rico eso mami!”, translating to something akin to “how sexy is that?”. Instances of extreme sexist behaviour, including sexual harassment and the groping of women are often reported. In Mexico, the chant “eeeh puta!”, which refers to a woman as a whore, has been used in women’s football to target goalkeepers. It derives from the homophobic chant “eeeh puto!” used when the opposing goalkeeper takes a goal kick or clears the ball. Female-disparaging comments can also be witnessed in expressions used by men to offend other men. The word “chivo” (in English, similar to “cuckold”) has been used in Costa Rican football to refer to a man’s wife as adulterous. Although the display of sexist banners is not a common form of discrimination in the region, a sexist banner with an illustration of a woman in opposing team colours performing fellatio has been reported in Canada.
Border tensions and patterns of migration between countries of the region have an impact in football fan culture, in many cases leading to xenophobic displays and comments against foreign-born players, or references to anti-migrant policies.
South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL)
In the South American football confederation (CONMEBOL), discriminatory practices are similar to those in CONCACAF Hispanic countries, with some chants being transferable and replicated across the two confederations. In one of the most ethnically diverse regions in the world, incidents of xenophobia and racism are amongst the most frequent types of discrimination. Hostility against immigrants, neighbouring countries, ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples can be traced back to the legacy of European colonialism and are a part of football and football fan culture. In Brazil, race relations have long been characterised by a belief in racial democracy or a post-racial society, but life opportunities have become deeply connected to exclusion based on wealth and social origin, which is also visible in football. Far-right movements also exist in Latin America, using some of the symbolism characteristic of European neo-Nazi groups and whilst they remain rare, they have been witnessed at some matches. Despite progress in achieving equal rights for LGBT+ communities in society, South American football is still affected by sexism and homophobic chanting. Chants may vary from Spanish to Portuguese-speaking countries due to language specifics. Discriminatory abuse on social media is also common in some countries
Calling the opposing team players, fans or the referee homophobic terms, including “puto”, “maricón”, “marica” – all Spanish for “faggot” – is commonly witnessed in South American stadiums, as well as “bicha” and “viado/ veado” in Brazil. The homophobic slurs refer to gay men in a derogatory way.
In Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries, the use of words, including “mono”, “simio”, “gorila” – Spanish for “monkey” and “gorilla” – or “macaco” – Portuguese for “monkey” – and monkey gestures can be observed. Other expressions include “comé banana” – Spanish for “eat a banana”. Racially charged words and expressions including “indio”, “negro gorila”, “negro de mierda”– in English “Indian/indigenous”, “N-word gorilla”, “shitty N-word” – are used to discriminate against players of different ethnicities or nationalities.
Sexist and misogynist terms are used to degrade opponents by impugning the sexual integrity of their mother. Words and expressions include “puta” – “whore” in English – “hijo de puta” – “son of a whore”.
In addition, there are also examples of sexist remarks directed at female referees and coaches emphasising negative stereotypes and promoting the idea of women as risky, incompetent and unskilled.
“La mujer es para la casa, como el perro” – Spanish for “The woman is to stay at home, just like a dog”
“Que en el fútbol no se metan, que vayan a vender frutas” – Spanish for “They should not talk about football, they should go sell fruit”
“Que se dedique a la cocina o costurería” – Spanish for “She should spend her time in the kitchen or sewing”
“No te maquilles tanto” – Spanish For “Don’t use so much makeup”
“La mujer ha avanzado y tiene capacidad suficiente, pero ahí a entrar a un camarín masculino...no estoy de acuerdo” – Spanish for “She has gone far and is skilled enough, but from that to entering a men’s dressing room...that, I don’t agree with.”
“Futebol feminino é igual gordo comendo salada: não tem graça nenhuma” – Portuguese for “Women’s football is like a fat person eating a salad, no fun”
“Se é bonitinha, que vá posar para a Playboy, não trabalhar com futebol” – Portuguese for “If she is pretty she should go pose for Playboy instead of working in football” Across the region, female sports journalists have spoken up about the persistent sexual harassment by football fans, colleagues and bosses. Displays of this behaviour include: women being kissed and groped during on-air broadcasts, being sent abusive messages and even receiving rape threats online
Discrimination against foreigners is experienced by immigrants from several South American countries, including Peruvians, Paraguayans and Bolivians. Ethnic characteristics and national origin are also the basis of xenophobic behaviour witnessed in the stadiums.
Union of European Football Associations (UEFA)
Discriminatory practices displayed in European football include verbal and symbolic abuse of black and ethnic minority players and fans, the display of far-right and neo-Nazi symbols, homophobic and sexist abuse. In addition, anti-Semitic and more recently Islamophobic and anti-refugee displays, have been on the rise throughout the region and in Central and Eastern Europe in particular.
Anti-Roma chanting – “Gypsy” (“Tsigani”/ “Cigani”)
Discriminatory practice commonly displayed especially in Central and Eastern Europe where fans chant “Gypsy” (“Tsigani”) towards players on the pitch or directed at the referee, attributing to them negative characteristics as part of the xenophobic stereotype about Roma people. Examples include when a referee is booking a player with a yellow/ red card and or when players commit or suffer a foul.
Anti-Semitic chanting – “Jews/Jude”
Calling opponent team supporters “Jews” is commonly used by far-right groups in Europe as a means of causing offence. It reflects an anti-Semitic worldview which inflicts xenophobic stereotypes about Jewish people onto fans of the opposing team. It is important to take the context of the expression into consideration when determining whether it is discriminatory, i.e. in the football context directed at the opposition it should be regarded as discriminatory.
As a form of anti-Semitic abuse, groups of fans may make a hissing noise to imitate the gas chambers of the Holocaust.
A form of racist abuse against black players when an individual or group of fans imitate monkey noises or gestures targeting black players on the pitch.
Nazi salute/Hitler salute
The gesture of extending the right arm from the chest or neck into the air with a straightened hand refers to a greeting used in Nazi Germany. The gesture may be accompanied by chanting “Sieg Heil” (in English: “Hail victory!”). Often used by far-right groups in football when the national anthem is performed before the match or generally throughout the game.
The quenelle is an anti-Semitic gesture originating in France performed by pointing one arm diagonally downwards palm down, while touching the shoulder or elbow with the opposite hand. The gesture is often referred to as a “reverse Nazi salute”.
Offering a banana to a black or ethnic minority player
A racist practice comparing black players to monkeys. Bananas or banana skins may be thrown onto the pitch towards a black or ethnic minority player.