The far right is active in Poland and Ukraine football.

Dutch black players were the victims of monkey chants whilst they trained for the Euro 2012 tournament in Krakow on Thursday, prompting captain Mark van Bommel vowing to take the issue to UEFA.

Mark van Bommel, the captain of Holland has vowed to complain to UEFA after his black teammates were taunted with monkey chants whilst they were training in Krakow, Poland, on Thursday.

Van Bommel referred to the monkey chants as “a real disgrace”, and vowed to take the matter to UEFA.

According to AFP news, (Euro 2012 set to start but under a racism cloud: Friday, 8 June, 2012), Van Bommel said, “We all heard the monkey chants. We can’t accept that. We reacted well and the situation was sorted. During the tournament, if any one of us is confronted with such a thing, we’ll immediately go to the referee to ask him to intervene.”

When former England defender, Sol Campbell warned black and minority ethnic England supporters not to travel to Poland or the Ukraine for the Euro 2012 tournament because of fears that they might be racially attacked, he went as far as to say that they could come back in body bags.

His warnings followed a Panorama documentary into football racism in the Ukraine, where images of fans displaying Nazi salutes and taunting black players with monkey chants made for uncomfortable viewing.

Campbell’s warning was taken seriously when you consider that according to Yahoo Sport news, “the families of black England players Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have declined to travel to watch the matches because of fears over racism.” (Euro 2012 – Dutch squad report racial abuse at training: Friday, 8 June, 2012)

When you consider that FIFA and other football bodies claim to be tackling racism in the sport granting Poland and the Ukraine the Euro 2012 tournament sends a contradictory message.

The Panorama documentary revealed that far-right organised gangs are pervasive in Polish and Ukrainian football. Only recently, our religion correspondent, Rajan Zed mentioned incidents of racist violence against people of Indian descent in the Ukraine. (Read Hindus concerned about racist violence against Indians in Ukraine)

However, black and minority ethnic football fans need to realise that just like any major sporting event, football is big business, and any claims that racism is being fought is arguably good public relations and nothing more.

If you read between the lines the AFP news report reveals the real intentions of UEFA in awarding Poland and the Ukraine the Euro 2012 tournament. It reads:

Euro 2012 is the first time that European football’s most prestigious international tournament has been held behind the former Iron Curtain….”

But issues such as sky-high accommodation prices and unfinished infrastructure projects to racism and human rights have weighed heavily over the preparations.”

In other words this was a political move by UEFA, and race was not on the agenda. Note also how businesses are cashing in. This is the reality of major sporting events which has become cash cows for big business.

English football just as bad

It would have been objective if Panorama had taken a closer look at football in England as well because things are not as rosy as it seems. Whilst the football governing bodies are careful to keep racism under control in the Premiership and major football leagues where the media and public attention is substantial; it is the lower leagues where you will find the real picture of race relations within football in this country.

In my article Racism will probably never be kicked out of football as long as punishments are lenient, I mentioned John Mann, a Labour MP and Leeds supporter, who told The Times in May 2009 that racist and religious abuse incidents in football matches within England is a problem, and that there were disturbing levels of racism and religious intolerance at junior and amateur clubs as well as the lower grassroots level of football.

According to Yahoo Sport, Italian striker Mario Balotelli said he would walk off the pitch if he is racially taunted, yet UEFA President Michel Platini warned that any player who leaves the field because of taunts will be given an automatic yellow card.

The message is clear by UEFA, it will be business as usual and racism will not stop the tournament. The only thing thing referees have been instucted to do by UEFA in light of racist taunts is temporarily halt the game; but nonetheless the games will go on.

The black football players at Euro 2012 and any other player who care to make a stand could stage a mass walkout if events take a turn for the worse, but eventually it comes down to what is more important for each individual player, playing for their country or combating racism.

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