Racism in Euro 2012 Football
Posted by African Press International on June 29, 2012
< Elizabeth M. Koikai, reporting for API in Norway
Racists incidents in the ongoing Euro 2012 Football championships that began in June in Poland and Ukraine have not come as a shock. In fact, such incidents of racism were expected by many. Despite efforts by various Football Associations who have set up anti-racism campaigns to raise awareness of the problem, some countries have already been fined by UEFA because of racists abuse by some fans.
The Croatian Football Federation was charged €80,000 (£64,561) for offences which included the racist abuse of the Italy striker Mario Barwuah Balotelli on Thursday.
Between 300 and 500 Croatian fans started making monkey chants during the Group C match against Italy in Poznan. A banana was also thrown on to the field.
Mario Barwuah Balotelli who is of Ghanaian descent but raised by an Italian family, plays as a striker for Manchester City and the Italian national team. He’s biological parents gave him up for adoption due to life-threatening complications he had as an infant.
Balotelli said before the Euro 2012 championships that he would leave the field if he was subjected to racism. Some anti-racist groups are angered by UEFA claiming that the penalty fee was under-whelming with regard to the seriousness of the incident. Apparently, Croatia was not only punished for the racist abuse that occurred on Thursday but also for its misbehaving fans who set off fireworks and threw them for a second time in Euro 2012. And the invasion of the pitch by a supporter, during the win against Republic of Ireland on Sunday.
Indeed, the Euro 2012 championships are a grim reminder of the dark side of European football that is marred by Neo-nazi and neo-fascist groups.
Recently, BBC televised a documentary called “Stadiums of hate” a month before the tournaments. The report shed some light into racism and the increasing numbers of far-right supporters and white-power movements in most football matches in Poland and Ukraine. British government advice for Euro 2012 is for black or asian fans to take extra care in Ukraine because of the possibility of racist violence.
When Sol Campbell a former English footballer was shown the footage of the documentary, he expressed disgust. When asked by BBC whether he would recommend families to travel to Euro 2012, he responded;
-Stay at home, watch on TV, do not even risk it you could end up coming back home in a coffin.
Problems of racism, and anti-Semitism are a part of every day life in Central and Eastern Europe.The racist abuse directed at black players is an issue that UEFA has failed to properly address. Black or other foreign players playing for clubs in Central and Eastern Europe are subjected to mass monkey chanting and being pelted with bananas every week. The stadiums are usually packed to the brim with football fans doing the nazi salute. The Police officials in the involved countries do nothing to help the players and National Football Federations are in denial of the problem.
There are other countries that were fined due to racist behaviour in the Euro 2012. The German team is the latest to face punishment due to extremist behaviour by fans who displayed a neo-Nazi banner during the Group B match against Denmark on Sunday. Russia were last week issued with a suspended six-point deduction for their Euro 2016 campaign over the behaviour of their fans in Poland and Ukraine, Russian fans also displayed extremist banners during a match.
Many Europeans including some Norwegian football commentators claimed that the BBC documentary “Stadiums of Hate” was inaccurate. And that the tournament would be racism free, they were wrong.
UEFA President Michel Platini has approached the issue of racism in football in a rather slack manner. He could have done plenty to ensure that racism didn’t rear its ugly head at Euro 2012.
Security personnel, for example, could have searched people’s bags at stadium entrances and thrown out bananas when they found them. Mr. Michel could have come out earlier and admitted that racism could be a problem at the tournament, and warned attendants to take certain precautions.
UEFA’s choice of venue could have been more careful. They should have worked together with FIFA to find out the true football atmosphere of these host countries. It is time for these two influential organizations to take the safety of minority players and issue of racism seriously.