Racist Chanting to Stop Games at EURO2012


Referees have been given power to halt games at EURO2012 but traditional European rivalries make the situation more complicated / Photo: Denise McCooey

The concerns about the potential of racist chanting from crowds at EURO2012 have begun to overshadow the tournament.

At a a news conference yesterday to launch the tournament, UEFA President and former France international Michel Platini had to deal with many questions on the matter and vowed that referees will have the power to actually stop matches if players suffer abuse from fans.

A recent BBC documentary highlighted the problems in Ukraine and Poland of racism and hooliganism among fans and showed a sickening incident where an Indian family was attacked at a club game in Ukraine.

On May 30th, Manchester City’s Italian international Mario Balotelli raised the stakes when he said that he would walk off the pitch if racially abused.

Balotelli has a past for attention seeking and juvenile behaviour but, as that rarity – a black Italian international – he has sufficient experience of the problem to be taken seriously on this issue.

He was often the target for abuse in Serie A from racist fans unable to stomach the fact that a black man could play for Italy.

His statement prompted a response from Platini who said that a player who left the field without permission would still receive the yellow card, no matter why he left.

Platini told BBC sports editor David Bond:

“It’s a yellow card. It’s not a player – Mr Balotelli – who’s in charge of refereeing. It’s the referee who takes these decisions. Referees can finish the game. They have this power in case of racism. That is, I think, the best way to protect the game against racism. The referee has been given advice and he can stop the game if there are problems.”

Others treaded more lightly into the affair, notably executive director of Football Against Racism in Europe, Piara Powar.

Referring to former UEFA referee and now EURO 2012 Respect ambassador Pierluigi Collina, Power said:

“Collina was clear that if a player did approach a referee and was looking for help, that the referee would then facilitate the player leaving the field of play.”

It may be then that only a unilateral decision to leave the field represents the differing ground between the sides.

Power was present at Platini’s press conference and cannot have delighted the Frenchman by stating:

“There is no question we are worried about this tournament more than any other.”

Tymoshenko is still incarcerated amid concerns about her health

Platini also sought to avoid the other political issue hanging over the tournament, that of Ukraine’s poor human rights record especially the jailing of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko for abuse of office.

The French government is refusing to send delegates to France’s matches in Ukraine to protest the treatment of Tymoshenko.

The British government is boycotting the tournament for the same reason.

Platini’s response was quite astonishing.

“UEFA does not get involved in politics. Western countries can boycott if they want to. It’s my role to simply organize the competition.”

Having spent the best part of the press conference outlining UEFA’s attempts to clamp down on expressions of racist views at matches, Platini’s chronic indifference to Ms Tymoshenko and human rights in Ukraine in general will disgust many both in its callousness and its sheer hypocrisy.

Editorial: Clampdown on Racism is Welcome but Poses Problems for History


About Author

Comments are closed.