Sunday, June 3, 2012

Euro 2012 and Racism Scare


The creep of extremism reminiscent of the 1930s could be felt in a panorama exposé sent to the governments of Poland and Ukraine in a flat spin over racism and the rise of neo-Nazism on the eve of Euro 2012. Polish authorities have urged Sol Campbell to visit their country after he warned ethnic minority fans: "You could end up coming back in the coffin."
It is sad to realise that in this 21st century, racism still plays out in the world of football. Football however, is conceptualized as a unifying factor geared towards uniting and shrinking the world and also fizzling out racism in its entirety. Black players are acrimoniously bemoaning about the way and manner they are being treated.
As Euro is fast approaching, the host countries are using every opportunity to ensure that racism does not play out. Only by so doing will the world experience the best of football.
Meanwhile, Italian striker Mario Balotelli has said that he would "kill" anyone who threw a banana at him in the street during the European Championship in Poland and Ukraine. The volatile Manchester City player experienced racism during his time in Serie A and there are fears that black players could be subjected to it during the tournament.
"I will not accept racism at all," Balotelli, who was abused by Juventus and Roma fans while playing for Inter Milan in 2009, told France Football magazine.
"If someone throws a banana at me in the street, I will go to jail because I will kill them," he added, referring to an incident in Rome when someone threw a banana at him in a bar. "It was lucky the police arrived quickly because I swear, I would have beaten them. I would really have destroyed them. "I hope it never happens again."
"Let's see what happens at the Euros," said Balotelli. "I hope it will pass without problem. I really couldn't deal with that. If it happened I would walk off the pitch and return home. "We are in 2012. It's not possible."
Last Monday night's BBC documentary showed widespread monkey chanting at games, routine Nazi saluting, violent attacks on Asian spectators at a match in Ukraine and anti-Semitic imagery in Krakow, England's base, which is 30 miles from the site of the Auschwitz extermination camp.
These alarming pictures burst on to television screens at a time when football across Europe is beset by a rise in xenophobia and disciplinary turmoil on the pitch. The problem is not unique to the former Soviet republics, where the Nazis slaughtered local populations and recruited local sociopaths to assist with the murders.
Even in Britain, with its wide ethnic mix, police have investigated racist chanting on trains, a student was sent to jail for racially abusing Fabrice Muamba on Twitter and the former England captain, John Terry, is awaiting trial on a charge of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand. Terry has denied that charge.
Also, last Tuesday, Swindon Town apologised to a black former player for "inappropriate" comments made about him by Paolo Di Canio, the manager, who used the fascist salute at games in Italy and has expressed admiration for Mussolini.
Poland and Ukraine have denounced British press allegations of racism and mob violence at soccer stadiums and assured foreign soccer officials and fans that they would be safe during the Euro 2012 tournament. Poland and Ukraine are the host nations of Euro 2012 tournament.
The neighbours, who will share matches between 16 countries throughout June leading to a July 1 final in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, moved to play down a BBC Panorama investigative programme on soccer violence filmed in their countries.
Last Monday's programme contained footages of fans giving Nazi salutes, taunting black players with monkey noises, anti-Semitic chants and a group of Asian students being attacked at the Metalist Stadium in Kharkiv, one of the four Ukrainian cities that will be hosting matches.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said: "Nobody who comes to Poland will be in any danger because of his race."This is not our custom, as is not pointing out similar incidents in other countries, although we know they take place. In Poland, they're a rarity," he told a news conference in Rome. In Kiev, Ukraine's foreign ministry went further, saying the allegations were a "dreamed-up and mythical problem."
For Ukraine, the racism allegations have only added to a deluge of other bad publicity ahead of Euro 2012, a competition that the former Soviet republic had hoped would showcase it as a modern state eligible to join the European Union. The jailing of opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko has triggered charges of backsliding on democracy from the European Unoin, some of whose politicians are threatening to boycott Euro 2012.
Reports of high-level corruption, excessive hotel prices, violence against participants of a gay pride meeting and graphic images of a brawl among lawmakers in parliament over a language law have further damaged Ukraine's international image.
Ukrainian authorities particularly fear the bad publicity could translate into low ticket sales and reduced tourist revenue to the detriment of their indebted economy.
A representative of an anti-racist watchdog in Ukraine, however, accused Ukrainian authorities of downplaying the problem of racism. "It's a pity we have had to wait for the Euros to start talking about this problem," said Iryna Fedorovich of the "Without Borders" centre, which provides support for foreigners in Ukraine.
"People are always calling us, saying 'We have suffered. We were attacked. We were insulted because we don't have the same colour or the same religion. The problem is with the authorities who have stayed silent about this for such a long time, "she said.
Ukrainian authorities were particularly stung by comments by former England international Sol Campbell who, in the Panorama programme, warned England fans not to travel to Euro 2012 because of the threat of racism and violence. Campbell, who played 73 times for England and appeared at six major tournaments, said: "Stay at home, watch it on TV. Don't even risk it because you could end up coming back in a coffin."
His comments followed the families of two black England players who said they would not go to the championship. Ukrainian players rallied to their country's defence. Striker Andriy Shevchenko, who formerly played for English club Chelsea, said: "We do not have any real problems with racism here. Ukraine is a very peaceful country and people here are very friendly. I know that everything will be done for Euro 2012 to take place at a high level."
Oleh Luzhny, who formerly played for London's Arsenal, was quoted by the online publication Korrespondent.net as saying: "No, no and no again. I have never heard any talk about this problem (racism). We have Nigerian football players here and I have never heard about outbreaks of racism."
UEFA 2012 director Markiyan Lubkivsky, faced with a barrage of questions on racism following the Panorama program, pleaded with journalists to declare a "moratorium" on negative information about the championship.
"So much mud has been heaped on this championship and on the process of preparing for it. Ninety percent of all the information is just not true," he told a Kiev news conference.
He said UEFA saw no threat to citizens of various nationalities who come to Ukraine for Euro 2012. Directly addressing Campbell's comments, he added: "These (comments) were for us simply insulting and we do not know what the aim of this statement was."

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