Football: S'pore ref Sukhbir Singh calls for unity following racial abuse

Local referee Sukhbir Singh officiating last week's ICC friendly between Chelsea and Inter Milan.
Local referee Sukhbir Singh(above) officiating last week's ICC friendly between Chelsea and Inter Milan.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

Singapore referee says racism in football has to be addressed as FAS offers to support probe

Singapore referee Sukhbir Singh has called for unity within the football community after being the target of racial abuse following his officiating at last week's International Champions Cup (ICC) Singapore at the National Stadium.

The 33-year-old told The Straits Times yesterday: "I wouldn't say I'm affected by it because I haven't read the tweets, but that doesn't mean I condone racism.

"It's (racism in football) something that definitely needs to be looked into.

"There should not be any bias towards anyone's race. Everyone should be allowed to believe in what they believe in freely and participate in what they want to participate in, especially when it comes to sports. Sports is supposed to unite people and not divide us."

The 2016 S-League Referee of the Year was subjected to racist comments on Twitter during last Saturday's friendly between Chelsea and Inter Milan.

Sukhbir awarded a controversial penalty to Inter and disallowed a late equaliser from Chelsea. Inter won 2-1.

He defended his performance and said: "No match official will go onto the field saying, 'I want to have a bad day or I just want to mess everything up'... I wouldn't say it was a difficult game to referee, but I'll say it was challenging like any other game."

British anti-discrimination bureau Kick It Out is investigating the incident, a move which Sukhbir praised.

He added that he had not experienced any racial abuse while refereeing locally, and has "not come under any circumstances where a report was needed".

Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president Lim Kia Tong said his organisation condemns the racist abuse and added: "The FAS stands with organisations such as Kick It Out who are dedicated to eradicating racism and discrimination from football.

"Should they require our assistance, we are ready to provide them with any help they need in their investigations on the racial abuse that Sukhbir received. Furthermore, we will not hesitate to report the culprits to the authorities for their action.

"Racial abuse, whether on the pitch, from the stands or online, cannot be tolerated. If it is a coach, player or official making such racial abuse, they can be subjected to bans. Fans can have their season passes revoked."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 04, 2017, with the headline 'Sukhbir calls for unity following racial abuse'. Print Edition | Subscribe