Unfortunately it’s no secret that racism and xenophobia are commonplace in Eastern European countries once under Soviet Rule. Previous fascist control seems to have had a negative effect, indoctrinating some Ukrainian and Polish people with racist, and especially anti-Semitic values.
Racism has always been a contentious issue, often highlighted within Football. The BBC recently released a documentary looking into Ukrainian and Polish terrace racism in light of the ever approaching European Championship tournament due to start in just over a week. The Panorama show that produces these covert journalistic documentaries was behind the project and uncovered some quite shocking revelations. In one particular scene four Indian students were savagely beaten by a group of Ukrainian football fans. Even more shocking was that the police and stewards seemed reluctant to attempt to break up the scuffle and just watched the violence. After the attack the students were asked if the police were going to help them get home, their reply
no no no, The police they’re not helpful at all
The police seem to start many of the problems in the stadium. When the Ultra fans cannot attack rival fans they attack the police. Despite the use of flares and fireworks, as well as knifes by hooligans, the police have built up a reputation as overly aggressive and enjoying violence. When the chief of the Ukrainian police force was asked about racism in the terraces his response was
we haven’t had any such incidents, there have been none
More disturbingly than anything else the BBC showed was the racist groups being incredibly organised. They are not mindless thugs but their attacks are well thought out to make the maximum negative impact. One such incident in a stand saw a group box a number of fans into a small area and systematically beat up the victims, after each deciding which fan to pick on.
Despite what appears to be very strong evidence, the Ukrainian FA released a statement condemning the documentary and British media in general
To accuse Ukraine of being fascist and racist – and to do it in the tone in which it is being done by the British media, some British footballers and individual British politicians – is simply disgraceful
Whilst the FA should be doing something about these obvious problems, they seem to be equally content in ignoring the issue and leaving it to their misguided police force. Their first strike should be to introduce fan segregation to help avoid fights. Being as fantastically racially diverse as Britain is, racism in the terraces could very well be a problem for British fans hoping to enjoy the tournament.
UEFA hold a zero tolerance policy toward racism in their football matches. The tournament will require strict monitoring of racism. Before the tournament, monitoring was the responsibility of the countries own Football Associations. What seems very clear is that whilst we will never be able to eradicate racism from these countries, we should arguably have never given them the honour of hosting a large football tournament like this one whilst problems such as these still exist.