Federico Addiechi, FIFA’s head of sustainability and diversity, the division of world soccer’s governing body that oversees human rights issues, said FIFA had received assurances from the Russian organizing committee and the Russian government “that everyone will feel safe, comfortable and welcome.”
“Everyone should be welcomed to the World Cup in Russia, the same as it was the case for everyone to be accepted and welcomed at previous World Cups,” Addiechi said after speaking on a panel at conference in the Netherlands. “This is what we expect.”
FIFA has added a human rights element to its statutes, he noted, the first in the organization’s 113-year history. “If there are any cases of abuse, or even possibility of human rights defenders or journalists being forced into a difficult corner, then according to our statutes and human rights policy FIFA will intervene,” Addiechi said.
Still, the potential for things to go wrong remains a serious concern, according to Minky Worden, the director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch.
“There’s a profound problem with homophobia in Russia,” she said. “Fans have to feel safe, and you cannot feel safe in a country that has bad laws and policies that discriminate against you.”
Fare will have in-stadium crowd monitors at each of the World Cup games tasked with spotting any displays of that breach regulations on racism, political extremism and homophobia. Among the chants they will be on the lookout for is the chant of “Puto,” a slur that roughly translates as “male prostitute” and has become customary among the fans of Mexico and some other Latin American nations.
The Mexican federation earlier this month managed to overturn on appeal a fine issued by FIFA over the matter, but that punishment was one of about a dozen related to the chant in recent years. The punishments, and even a public-relations campaign that included Mexican players, have had little effect on stopping the practice.
Addiechi warned fans considering repeating that or other offensive chants that referees could take action during games, which could include abandoning matches in the worst instances. FIFA threatened to do that ahead of last summer’s Confederations Cup in Russia, but after the chant took place at Mexico’s first match, it issued only a warning.
Under regulations that will be used again at the World Cup, a referee can stop a game pending an announcement on the speaker system calling for fans to stop the offensive behavior. If the behavior persists, players will be led off the field and to the locker rooms, while another warning is read out. Should a game be stopped for a third time, the match would be abandoned, Addiechi said.
He added: “These are things that are not tolerated.”