Racism fears mar Euro 2012 kick-off
Monday, June 11, 2012
Black players taunted with monkey chants, Asian students beaten :
POLAND: Euro 2012 kicked-off in Poland and Ukraine on Friday amid fears that racism and politics could overshadow Europe's premier football showcase, held for the first time in countries once behind the Iron Curtain. Warsaw and Kiev hoped to use the tournament to highlight progress in their ex-Communist countries, but instead have seen it mired in controversy over racist fans and Ukraine's treatment of a top opposition leader. Hours before kick-off at the opening match in Warsaw Friday -- which saw host Poland tie 1-1 with Greece -- Dutch captain Mark van Bommel said his team heard racist chants during a public training session in the southern Polish city of Krakow.
“We all heard the monkey chants,” van Bommel was quoted as saying by the Dutch De Telegraaf newspaper. “We can't accept that.”
A BBC television documentary broadcast last month showed football fans in the two countries making Nazi salutes, taunting black players with monkey chants, and beating Asian students.
Concern over potential racism-related violence also prompted former England captain Sol Campbell, who is black, to warn fans to “stay home, watch it on TV... don't even risk it”.
The host countries said the claims did not give a true picture of the situation on the ground, with Poland's organisers even extending a personal invitation to Campbell.
Dutch footballing legend Ruud Gullit said Friday in Warsaw he hoped the racist chants were a one-off “incident” and urged the hosts to address the problem.
“The world is watching, you have the possibility to tackle this -- take this opportunity,” he said.
Much of the spotlight ahead of the opening kick has also focused on Ukraine's treatment of its former prime minister and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, who has been jailed for seven years on charges the European Union says are politically motivated.