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The Ugly Side of Euro 2012

July 2, 2012

Soccer

Xabi Alonso after Spain’s EURO 2012 Victory

As the lights went down in Kiev, Ukraine, yesterday the Spanish National Team took home its second consecutive Euro Cup title, along with its 3rd straight major title (Euro 2008, World Cup 2010, Euro 2012); while the storyline today may be generated around the pure dominance of La Furia Roja, there is an underlying story, one that is a lot less glorious than the living legend that is the Spanish National Team.

That story is, despite attempts from UEFA to combat the rampant racism that exists in European Football, this edition of EURO 2012 did not see a cease in disturbing activity.

It is apparent that racism is a major problem in Europe, and as stated before the events that occurred during EURO 2012 are unfortunately not profound by any means.

The unsettling events of racism began in Poland before the tournament even began.

The Dutch National Team were forced to abandon their open practice in Krakow after “monkey chants” were heard throughout the training grounds.

There was no official complaint issued by the Dutch, but their captain Mark van Bommel was quick to address the issue to the media, “Open your ears. If you did hear it and don’t want to hear it, that is even worse.”

There were many threats made by players competing in EURO 2012 of abandoning the field of play if racist chants were heard in the stadiums, most notably by Italy’s Mario Balotelli and van Bommel.

However, this did not happen despite UEFA handing out fines to countries Football Associations for crimes of Racism.

Croatian fans pouring flares out onto the pitch during their match against Italy

A total of €80,000 was charged to the country of Croatia for their actions during Euro 2012.

The worst of the fine came from “monkey chants” issued towards Balotelli during the 1-1 draw between the two nations.

Similar allegations were directed towards Spain, during their group match against Italy, along with allegations of booing Italy’s national anthem. However no fine was levied towards Spain as of now.

Italians are not without criticism for the racism that occurred during the tournament either. In a move of terrible judgement Italian fans were seen throughout the stadiums in blackface representing Mario Balotelli, who is of Ghanaian descent.

The Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport published a cartoon of Balotelli after their victory over England which angered the forward; the cartoon displayed below depicted Balotelli as King Kong, and instead of the Empire State Building it had him atop the Big Ben clock in London. There was an immediate apology released by the paper.

The cartoon was supposedly not a racist gesture, but given the context of events that already occurred during the tournament the outcry over the cartoon was well justified.

All of these events can only lead to the assumption that racism in still alive and well throughout Europe and most notably football.

While many teammates and other players have taken the sides of those victimized by racism, I believe it will take much more than just voicing their opinions about the issue.

A step in the right direction would be for players to take that extra step and walk off the pitch in response to racism from fans.

However UEFA does not seem to agree with that statement, and have even addressed that they would book players who left the pitch because of racism.

There stance was that it would protect against the game from racism. Their point may be that by leaving the field you are acknowledging that racism is having an effect on players.

However UEFA’s acknowledgement of racism alone is made with their campaigns against racism. These campaigns have been seemingly futile however due to its appearance throughout the competition.

What is even more troubling is the dishing out of fines, while it is an appropriate measure it has clearly been mishandled by UEFA. This is evident went observing the disproportional amounts of fines levied.

Country/player Fine
Charge
Russia €120,000
Crowd disturbances, throwing of fireworks, display of illicit banners
Nicklas Bendtner €100,000
Improper conduct (display of underwear)
Croatia €80,000
Throwing of fireworks, racist chants, display of racist symbols
Russia €35,000 Throwing of fireworks, display of illicit banners
Russia €30,000
Racist behaviour, racist chants
Russia €30,000
Throwing of fireworks, display of illicit banners, pitch invasion
Croatia €30,000
Inappropriate and racist banners
Germany €25,000
Improper conduct of fans
Croatia €25,000
Throwing of fireworks and missiles, isolated pitch invader
Germany €10,000 Throwing of fireworks
Portugal €7,000 Attempted pitch invasion
England €5,000 Attempted pitch invasion
Portugal €5,000 Delayed kick-off of second half v Germany
Poland €4,000 Throwing of fireworks
TOTAL €506,000

As stated before €80,000 was fined to Croatia for their actions, which may seem like a lot, but in comparison to the €100,000 handed to Nicklas Bendtner for revealing his underwear it seems like mere chump change.

Maybe it is time for UEFA to start handing out bigger, more appropriate fines to offenders to show that there is no room for racism in football, and society in general.

Maybe it is time for players to take the jump and show their solidarity by walking off the pitch and letting the racist cowards know that enough, is enough.

For a region that prides itself in progress and social understanding, it is despicable to see that these things still have context in society.

More needs to be done, obviously what they are doing is not working.

As Balotelli and other players of African decent gain more exposure this issue can either grow worse, or get better that choice is up to UEFA and the players that belong to it.


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About Stefan Jagot

22-year-old Broadcasting and Cinematic Arts Major at Central Michigan University. The jack of all trades for TheFarmClub.net.

View all posts by Stefan Jagot

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