Euro 2012: Will Racism Be a Big Problem?

I use the word “big” in the title to this blog advisedly, as I think we can all agree racism has already become a problem for these Euros, triggered by a worthwhile but undoubtedly tendentious BBC Panorama documentary a couple of weeks back.  The question is, how big a problem will it become?  On the positive side, I was pleased to see Poland’s opening match pass off apparently without incident.  However, there were monkey chants from a signifcant number of (presumably) Polish fans at Holland’s first training session in Krakow, and similar abuse by Russians directed at the one black Czech player appearing in their opening match – as well as more “traditional” violence when the same fans launched a particularly unpleasant-looking assault on Polish stewards.  My view remains that the excitement of the football will crowd out the racism headlines.  This could be seen right from the start in the incident-packed first match, Poland v Greece.  But it will only help if the authorities, of whatever hue, get their act together.  So, what an injustice UEFA and the Dutch team management conspicuously failed to do the right thing.  UEFA characterised the monkey-chanting at the Dutch traning session as a protest by Cracowians at their unsuccessful bid to become a host city at the Euros.  What a joke (if the subject-matter weren’t so serious): there have been separate such protests, but these would hardly take the form of monkey chants, anyway!  It was noticeable UEFA then executed a swift volte face.  The Dutch management also downplayed the incident, which occurred only a short time after the Dutch team’s visit to Auschwitz, prompting captain Mark Van Bommel to castigate those who would sweep racism under the carpet.  Hats off to him, big time.  So, the jury is out.  We’ve experienced some racist incident already, and a small cohort of East European “ultras” await their moment, the stage having conveniently been set for them.  But powerful and determined action by the authorites when needed, and a feast of football, can relegate racism to the fringes of this tournament.  Thereafter heightened awareness of it in this part of the world can be a force for its eradication.  That’s my prescription.

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Filed under Anti-semitism, England fans, Euro 2012, Football, Hooliganism, Poland, Poles, Polska, Polska Dotty, Racism, Soccer, Ukraine

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