WARSAW: Ruud Gullit fears that UEFA president Michel Platini struck a misjudged chord when he stated that players at Euro 2012 who leave the pitch without the referee’s permission in response to racist abuse would be booked writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
The issue of racism had come to dominate the run-up to the European Championship finals, even beyond the European Union pol;iticians’ bocyott, after the furore created by the BBC Panorama documentary targeting attitudes and terrace behaviour in Ukraine.
Italy’s Manchester City forward Mario Balotelli said he would walk off the pitch if he heard racist abuse but Platini responded that leaving the pitch was a decision for the referee alone.
Anti-racism campaigners have accused UEFA over many years of not taking racism seriously enough. Last season Manchester City were fined more for being late for a second half kick-off in the Europa League than were Porto for their fans’ racist taunting of City players.
Gullit, who captained Holland to victory in 1988, supported the match control role of referees but insisted that players had a human right to take a personal stand.
He said: “The monkey sounds that greeted the Holland team at their training session this week were an embarrassment to the Polish authorities. The problem of racial abuse of footballers is now on everyone’s radar and it has to be dealt with. UEFA have given referees the power to stop a game and I am behind that. The problem needs to be tackled straight away, so players shouldn’t just keep quiet and play on like in my day.
“For Michel Platini to say that players would be booked for leaving the field is, in my opinion, is the wrong message. If a player is racially insulted, he should have the right to leave the field. I would like to think we can trust referees to take everyone off but, if the officials are not supporting the players correctly, then the individual should act. The message this would send out: ‘we will not tolerate this abuse’.”
Gullit feels awareness of racism has improved since his playing days, when he admits he felt unable to openly confront the issue. He said: “When I played, I received racial abuse but I was just one of a few black players and we weren’t backed up by the authorities. My only weapon then was my performances on the pitch.
“We are beyond that now though. We just have to hope that racism doesn’t haunt this tournament but that, if it does, the response is strong. The players need the support of UEFA and the football authorities need the support of the police.”
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