WARSAW: Racist abuse is already a live issue at Euro 2012, before a ball has been kicked, after Dutch players were targeted during a training session in their Polish base of Krakow writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
European federation Michel Platini had sought, on Wednesday, to play down concerns about attitudes among some sections of society in co-host nations Poland and Ukraine.
His comment in Warsaw then that “there’s no more racism in Poland and Ukraine than . . . anywhere else” did not go down well in the Holland camp. Anger at UEFA’s ‘relaxed’ stance was exacerbated by the training session incident in front of more than 20,000 spectators at the Miejski stadium, home of Wisla Krakow.
Several hundred people aimed monkey chants at players such as Nigel De Jong and Greg Van der Wiel as they circled the pitch. The players, on the order of captain Mark Van Bommel, crossed to the other side to continue their work.
Van Bommel said: “This is a real disgrace especially after getting back from Auschwitz [the Dutch squad visited the concentration camp on Wednesday] that you are confronted with this. We will take it up with UEFA and if it happens at a match we will ask the referee to take us off the field.”
Responding to Dutch journalists who claimed not to have heard the abuse, Van Bommel said: “You need to open your ears. If you heard it and did not want to hear it then that is even worse.”
He dismissed excuses that the jeers stemmed from local fans’ anger that Krakow is not hosting any matches. Italy and England are also based inh Krakow.
The incident would have been a particular embarrassment for Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk who took a TV crew with him on a gesture visit to the Lodz home of John Godson, Poland’s first black parliamentarian. Godson described Poland as a “hospitable and tolerant country.”
Relatives of two of England’s black players, Arsenal’s Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, have not travelled to the tournament for fear of problems.
UEFA president Platini said on Wednesday that a referee had the power to halt a game if racist abuse erupted.
= = = =