Concerns of Racism Precede European Soccer Championships
The most important sporting event in Eastern Europe since the fall of the Berlin Wall begins June 8 with the European soccer championships co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine.
But a complicated racial issue has arisen as the families of two of England’s black players have said they will probably not attend the 16-team tournament, fearing abuse or violence in Ukraine, where the team will play its first three matches. A BBC documentary depicting racist behavior at soccer games there has further inflamed emotions.
At the same time, one of England’s top players, defender John Terry, faces a criminal charge after the tournament of racially abusing a black opponent during a club match last October in the English Premier League. The charge led to Terry’s being stripped of his captaincy of the English national team.
While racism in soccer has been a continuing problem in England, Italy and Spain, it has by degree seemed to be more virulent at matches in Eastern Europe, with some fans making monkey chants and throwing bananas at black players, while others have given Nazi salutes and chanted, ‘Sieg Heil.’