Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Euro 2012 opens today in Poland, but fears of fan abuse and racist chants throughout the tournament increased yesterday when members of the Dutch national team were racially abused during a practice session in Krakow, Poland.According to a report by The Telegraph, black players from the Netherlands were subjected to monkey chants from a crowd of 500 people during a warm-up run.
Dutch players then criticised the tournament’s governing body, UEFA, of turning a blind eye to the incident.
Earlier this year, the BBC ran a story (which has since been removed from YouTube) that uncovered a dark history of racial abuse in Poland and Ukraine, the two countries hosting Euro 2012. Hundreds of fans were videotaped performing Nazi salutes and chanting racial slurs at club matches in recent years.
Since then, players such as Mario Balotelli from Italy and Dutch captain Mark Van Bommel have said that if racial abuse happens, they will walk off the field in protest.
Today, UEFA released an official statement, vowing to take action if players are abused again.
“UEFA has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to discriminatory behaviour and has given the power to referees to stop matches in case of any repeated racist behaviour.”
UEFA president Michel Platini warned players that if they do take matters into their own hands and leave the field to escape racist chants, they will be punished.
Any player who walks off the field in protest of racism will be given a yellow card by the referee. Referees will be encouraged to stop the game if they hear any racist chants.
Relying on referees to not only hear the chants amid all the other crowd noise, but to have the courage to stop a massively important game might not be a viable strategy for UEFA.
Referees are under immense pressure just to keep up with the flow of the game, and at a major tournament such as Euro 2012, it would be a first for a referee to actually call the game to a halt. The vast majority of abuse cases result in a team being fined, or individual fans being banned from the stadium after the game has been completed.
Platini, though, isn’t too concerned.
“Everyone can do what they like. I don’t think there’s any more racism in Poland and Ukraine than in France or anywhere else, or even in England,” Platini said. “I’m not charge of what goes on in football stadiums.”
Two black English players, though, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott, won’t be bringing their families to Euro 2012 due to the threat of racism.
In the BBC’s program, former England player Sol Campbell had this warning for black fans:
“Stay home, watch it on TV…. because you could end up coming back in a coffin.”
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