"So many people close their eyes to what is happening right now, they close their eyes and it became a normality," Henry said. "If you are in the stands and you hear someone saying that, let them know it's not ok. Even if it's one person in the stadium, it's one too many."
FIFA, soccer's world governing body, has always left the problem to each country's federation. But in March, with the World Cup -- and all the attendant media coverage just three months away, FIFA president Sepp Blatter decided to act. He announced new and harsh regulations that will penalize teams whose players, coaches, officials or fans engage in racist conduct. Penalties would affect league standings and World Cup eligibility.
"The national associations or the leagues they haven't done their homework," said Blatter. "But now they will be obliged so do so and FIFA will have not only let's say the right to monitor it but the right to intervene if the right actions are not taken. … And we will do it. We will do it."
During the World Cup, the new regulations will apply to players, coaches and officials -- but not to fans. There are concerns that some fans might taunt their own players in an effort to have their opponents penalized. The stakes will be high. With the world watching, any racist incident would indelibly stain the beautiful game.