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Legia Warszawa soccer fans burn flares during their team's Extra league match with Korona Kielce in Warsaw, Poland
Image: dapd

EURO 2012 racism claims

May 29, 2012

Ukraine and Poland have hit back at allegations of racist violence in soccer stadiums. It follows the airing of a British documentary showing fans giving Nazi salutes and taunting black players with monkey noises.


Ukraine and Poland have angrily rejected allegations made in a BBC documentary that far-right gangs were rife in Ukrainian and Polish football.

"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," said Oleg Voloshyn, spokesman at the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry.

He went even further by saying that "you can criticize Ukrainian society for a lot of things ... but, in the practice of racism, European Union member countries are a long way ahead of Ukraine."

"Nobody who comes to Poland will be in any danger because of his race," Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said at a news conference. "This is not our custom, as is not pointing out similar incidents in other countries, although we know they take place."

The Polish foreign ministry said that it will ask the BBC for a correction for broadcasting "unjust opinions that it will be dangerous in Poland during the Euro 2012 championship," according to the AFP news agency.

Offensive footage

The investigative documentary, which was aired on the BBC's Panorama program on Monday, featured former England captain and defender Sol Campbell, who is black, warning fans not to travel to EURO 2012.

Sol Campbell as he celebrates after scoring against Porto in a Champions League match
Campbell is a former England captainImage: dapd

Campbell, who played 73 times for England and appeared at six major tournaments, said: "Stay at home, watch it on TV. Don't even risk it ... because you could end up coming back in a coffin."

The program showed footage of soccer fans in Ukrainian stadiums giving the Nazi salute and making fun of black players with monkey noises.

The families of two current England squad members, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who both play for Arsenal, have already said they would not travel to Ukraine and Poland.

The British, Danish and French foreign ministries have warned fans planning on travelling to matches of the risk of racist attacks.

European football governing body UEFA, however, insisted that there was no risk for fans. Director Markiyan Lubkivsky pleaded with journalists to declare a "moratorium" on negative information about the championship.

"So much mud has been heaped on this championship and on the process of preparing for it. Ninety percent of all the information is just not true," he told a Kyiv news conference.

Host country Ukraine has already been under fire for jailing and allegedly mistreating former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoschenko, triggering a wave of criticism and calls for a boycott of EURO 2012.

ng/pfd (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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