Chilling stuff: Soccer’s Euro 2012 could be ruined by racism

Will Euro 2012 turn out to be a festival or a fiasco? (AP photo)

They're all smiles now, but will Euro 2012 turn out to be a festival or a fiasco? (AP photo)

Think of the soccer’s quadrennial European Championships as the World Cup without Brazil and Argentina but also without the lesser lights. Euro 2012 includes 16 teams — the World  Cup offers 32 — and at least 10 have a legitimate chance to make big noise. But the fear exists that Euro 2012, which commences today and runs through July 1, could make its biggest noise by becoming a cauldron of racism.

The event is being jointly hosted by Poland and the Ukraine. This month the BBC aired a Panorama documentary entitled “Euro 2012: Stadiums of Hate” that, according to the Guardian, “showed Polish fans chanting anti-Semitic slogans and giving Nazi salutes.” UEFA, the governing body of European football, did the usual UEFA thing by first trying to downplay the report and then making assurances that racism would not be tolerated.

Sol Campbell was more forthcoming. He advised fans to stay away from Euro 2012. “Watch it on TV,” said Campbell, who is black and who was a defender on England’s national team. Then this: “You could end up coming back in a coffin.”

The issue of racism prompted the Italian striker Mario Balotelli, who is black, to offer this admonition: “If someone throws a banana at me in the street, I will go to jail, because I will kill them.”

Teams began arriving in Poland and the Ukraine this week. At the Netherlands’ practice in Krakow on Thursday, what are being reported as “monkey chants” were directed at two black Dutch players. Mark Van Bommel, the Dutch captain, told the Guardian: “”It is a real disgrace, especially after getting back from Auschwitz [the team had toured the site of the Nazi concentration camp on Wednesday] that you are confronted with this.”

After first suggesting that the crowd at the Dutch practice was merely protesting Krakow’s omission from the list of cities hosting Euro games, UEFA finally acknowledged “some isolated incidents of racist chanting.” (There’s some truth to the rumor that the “E” in UEFA stands for, “Evil? We see none.”)

Meanwhile, the England team is itself facing a race-based furor. Manager (that’s “coach” in European soccer) Roy Hodgson chose not to include longtime Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand in his squad as an emergency replacement for the injured Gary Cahill, choosing instead Liverpool backup Martin Kelly. Hodgson claimed this was for “footballing reasons.” As the Telegraph notes, nobody believed him.

Ferdinand is black. Were he to start for this England team, he’d be paired in central defense with John Terry, who is facing trial for alleged racial insults he hurled at Anton Ferdinand, Rio’s brother, during a Premier League game last season. (The same John Terry was removed as England’s captain — though he remained on the squad — before the 2010 World Cup for having had an affair with a teammate’s girlfriend.)

Ged Grebby, chief executive of Show Racism the Red Card, told Goal.com: “If John Terry was in an ordinary workplace with good trade union policies he would have initially been suspended on full pay and, now that it’s gone to court, suspended to the outcome of the case in July.”

This is truly shameful stuff. And to think: It was once fashionable to call soccer The Beautiful Game.

By Mark Bradley

109 comments Add your comment

Southern Social Media Guy

June 8th, 2012
11:50 am

And they think the South is racist?

First?

Rickster

June 8th, 2012
12:00 pm

Pseudo-Euro kudos for second?

ChopAttack

June 8th, 2012
12:00 pm

Europe’s population is becoming more and more middle-eastern. For those just catching up… that group isn’t the most tolerant group.

Rickster

June 8th, 2012
12:01 pm

And people think we need to follow Europe’s example?

Sonny Clusters

June 8th, 2012
12:01 pm

They should all sit down together and enjoy some peach cobbler.

Joseph

June 8th, 2012
12:02 pm

SSMG, The South IS racist.

wxwax

June 8th, 2012
12:02 pm

Errata.

Correct your column, Bradley.

Terry did *not* have an affair with Bridge’s wife. It was alleged that he had an affair with Bridge’s girlfriend. Both parties denied it.

Fix your column.

yeahsure

June 8th, 2012
12:03 pm

This has been going on in Europe forever. Even to a player like Henry. That’s why I get so annoyed when Europeans criticize Americans as being close-minded. A lot of Americans dont realize how good we have it here.

wxwax

June 8th, 2012
12:04 pm

Also, do you realize that the entirety of the evidence against Terry in the racism case is a partially obscured video that was interpreted by a freaking lip reader?

A lip reader? Nobody heard a thing. Nobody.

Shameful stuff indeed.

PMC

June 8th, 2012
12:06 pm

The more worldly you become, the more you will realize how good we have it in the US.

For all it’s faults, this is a fantastic country.

George Stein

June 8th, 2012
12:07 pm

The larger issue is the racism of the fans, and I’m glad you covered it, Mark.

The irony of Joseph’s statement blows me away. Criticizing an entire group of people based on their heritage is the definition of racist.

Joseph

June 8th, 2012
12:08 pm

Also, Germany will win. Book it.

Sonny Clusters

June 8th, 2012
12:09 pm

BREAKING NEWS! “I’ll Have Another” is hurt and will not run for the Triple Crown. The horse has a “little problem with his left front leg” which is the same problem as uh, Chipper. We was wondering if they’ll be in Rome at the same time?

Mark Bradley

June 8th, 2012
12:10 pm

Kudos, Southern Social.

Rickster

June 8th, 2012
12:10 pm

Of course… this column is only relevant to people who really care about soccer. So it’s a limited audience.

Mark Bradley

June 8th, 2012
12:12 pm

I’m watching Poland-Greece. This could end nil-nil.

[...] the gameHindustan TimesEuro-Proud co-hosts Poland ready to partyYahoo! Eurosport UKFox News -Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)all 1,990 news [...]

Mark Bradley

June 8th, 2012
12:18 pm

Wrong again. Poland scores.

Joseph

June 8th, 2012
12:19 pm

“The irony of Joseph’s statement blows me away.”

Confederate flags at college football games and NASCAR races. Coded language like “thugs” and the obvious racially-motivated attacks on Obama. The history of “Southern strategy.” Shall we continue?

Here we go...

June 8th, 2012
12:26 pm

Joseph, you completely and utterly missed George’s point.

George Stein

June 8th, 2012
12:28 pm

By all means, Joseph, please continue to indict all southerners because of the behavior of some. You’re really no different than a racist.

Collins

June 8th, 2012
12:28 pm

Why are white people so racist? No one has ever done you wrong except what you do to each other and other races. Just live your life and die that is how life should be smh.

Jimmy Crack

June 8th, 2012
12:34 pm

Racists come in all colors, Barnabus.

I dropped my fried twinkie

June 8th, 2012
12:35 pm

Joseph…..there are plenty of Confederate Flags at homes of Yankees even in the northern states. There are racists actually BIGOTS in every state city and county in the US.

Europe has a great deal of social and racial and religious problems. European youth with no jobs and differing Religious and Ethnic make up are causing many Racial divides.

clay

June 8th, 2012
12:37 pm

Racism? Just watched the opening few minutes of Poland v Greece… Am I the only one irritated by juvenile graphics that open/close replay shots? As if we can’t tell the difference between slow-motion and real-time…

I get the impression that certain sectors of the media want racism to be an issue.

USAF92

June 8th, 2012
12:45 pm

Great post, Mark. As an Arsenal fan and fan of European Football I must say that you have moved up on my esteem scale. Nevertheless, you could not have chosen quotes from two players at more opposite ends of the character scale than Sol Campbell and Mario Balotelli.

Campbell is a high character guy who has been a tremendous ambassador for the EPL and the game of soccer. On the other hand, Balotelli is a selfish and dirty player who will likely be looking for a new home outside of the EPL next season as a result of his repeated antics.

You quote Balotelli as saying “If someone throws a banana at me in the street, I will go to jail, because I will kill them.” Frankly, he is so unstable that that would likely be his normal reaction to someone asking for his autograph.

COYG!

Fredi Will Screw It Up Somehow

June 8th, 2012
12:45 pm

George,

“Some” you say? Ha.

George Stein

June 8th, 2012
12:49 pm

Yes, Fredi. If you want to disagree, show me the data that supports your belief(s). I’m not really interested in anecdotal evidence, though.

Mark Bradley

June 8th, 2012
12:50 pm

I still haven’t gotten over Sol Campbell’s goal being disallowed against Argentina in 1998.

Al Sharpton

June 8th, 2012
12:51 pm

I aint no racist!

Purveyor

June 8th, 2012
12:52 pm

Here you go Joseph: BET, NAACP, New Black Panthers, UNCF, Ebony, Jet, Alpha Psi Omega etc…
Shall I go on?

I dropped my fried twinkie

June 8th, 2012
12:57 pm

Purveyor…. you forgot Obama’s Old Preacher he had to distance himself from after the Video Rant came out.

jerry

June 8th, 2012
12:59 pm

Some people have legs that can out run and out jump all other people and own practically all the world records for running and jumping. But we are all the same…legs, brains, whatever.

I dropped my fried twinkie

June 8th, 2012
1:00 pm

Does anybody think the FIX is in with “I’ll Have Another” not running?
Maybe the Spotlight is too bright and they are afraid of getting caught DOPING him to win?

Pat

June 8th, 2012
1:00 pm

As the world follows the US in becoming more and more rightwing extremist (KKK, Neonazis, skinheads, the tea bag party, etc,, etc.), this will happen more and more. Intolerance once was a calling card of the hard right in the US… seems EU trash love it too!

Jimmy Crack

June 8th, 2012
1:01 pm

Europeans are racists??? Shock of all shocks, as we are always being scolded by finger-wagging liberals like our current President that we need to be “cultured”, just like them, lol.

European soccer is a trailblazer for other sports in the art of “flopping”. It has since infiltrated the NBA (where most players are weenies anyway), the NHL (to where officials are now confused as whether a player may need an ambulance or is just imitating Tony Parker), and is now, God forbid, knocking on the door of the NFL (which will signal the end of the world).

The only good thing about soccer is world peace, because without it Europeans and Middle Easterners would burn their own cities to the ground.

gmahn

June 8th, 2012
1:07 pm

Small minds play with small ideas. Whether its covert racist confederate flags at college football games,or idiots yelling racist jibberish at Dutch soccer players in a training session.The stupidity level is as ridiculous as the dolts-no matter which side of the Atlantic you live on!

ray

June 8th, 2012
1:07 pm

So George, you saying the south isn’t racist….

USAF92

June 8th, 2012
1:07 pm

Awful red card. And the yellow that preceded it was questionable at best. Greece’s goose is cooked.

Robbie

June 8th, 2012
1:09 pm

Interesting how Purveyor immediately went to point the finger at blacks.

Gareth Bale

June 8th, 2012
1:10 pm

Then there’s the whole mess at Liverpool this year . . .

USAF92

June 8th, 2012
1:11 pm

…go figure. Greece’s goose still shows signs of life.

USAF92

June 8th, 2012
1:12 pm

Indeed. Liverpool is a mess and it is a shame given the talent that they have had over the years.

George Stein

June 8th, 2012
1:12 pm

Correct, Ray. There are individuals in the South who certainly are, but I won’t indict everyone in a region because they from that region. That would be like saying all Bostonians are racist because they’re from Boston, which is stupid.

This should not be that difficult.

Ignition

June 8th, 2012
1:21 pm

How did most Black people get here again ??

USAF92

June 8th, 2012
1:22 pm

Gareth Bale. Nice reference to the Spurs. Shame Chelsea got the auto Champion’s league qualifier by taking the title this year. Spurs deserved better.

Belled

June 8th, 2012
1:27 pm

Do you really find an AJC article the correct place to make huge generalizations on the South? Also, Joseph, if you weren’t so ignorant, you would know that the Confederate flag has nothing to do with racism. People shouldn’t go around acting all high-and-mighty when they have no idea what they’re talking about – this directed at a couple of you.

BiggDawgK

June 8th, 2012
1:28 pm

Europe raminds me of the northeast US in one way. They point their fingers and are quick to label everyone else racists and bigots all while living in strictly segregated neighborhoods and never interacting with anyone that is not just like themselves.

It never ceases to amaze me that most people that rush to label the South as racist live in states with less than 5% minorities. These open minded individuals are sure they would be best pals with a minority if they ever actually met one.

ronald

June 8th, 2012
1:29 pm

Hey Mark- Get the racism out of the US Justice Dept. and then come talk to me about whats going on in Euro soccer. Until the New Black Panther, who wore a NBP uniform and held a baton and threatened voters in Pennsylvania, is in jail….then why would anyone care what is going on across the pond? Eric Holder is the biggest racist on the face of the planet, but no one seems to care.

gmahn

June 8th, 2012
1:31 pm

Wow! and then there were 10 (a side). That should open up the pitch. Polands b/u keeper with the save of the match so far