Sunday, June 04, 2006

Europeans agree: No place for racism at World Cup

German and international football officials are taking steps to discourage racism at the upcoming World Cup. The world football body, FIFA, has begun a campaign that includes a series of anti-racism TV commercials, and banners to be displayed at all World Cup matches. FIFA officials said racist incidents by fans will not interrupt game play, but players and coaches have been threatened with sanctions, The New York Times reported.

While many say the atmosphere of the World Cup may itself limit racist behavior, others say such behavior will simply be moved outside the stadiums. "We have to differentiate inside and outside the stadium," said Kurt Wachter, coordinator of Football Against Racism in Europe. "We're sure we will see some things we're used to seeing. It won't stop because of the World Cup."

In Scotland, for instance, Northern British football fans have been warned to "guard against" anti-English racism during the World Cup. The Commission for Racial Equality said Scots should not feel that they ought to support the Auld Enemy but the watchdogs warned the World Cup must not be seen as an excuse for anti-English feeling.

"What could be seen by some as harmless banter between rival fans will impact on others as raw hostility directed against a whole nation. There's an all too common misperception that racism only occurs where people are visibly different. In fact, racism occurs when any person is stereotyped, harassed or discriminated against on the basis of their colour, race, ethnic or national identity. Using the World Cup as a pretext for hostility against any nation or race, including the English, is racism," CRE Scotland director Ali Jarvis told Magnus Gardham of the Daily Record.

The CRE saw a rise in complaints about anti-English racism in the run-up to the 2002 World Cup and have already received a number of calls from people concerned that anti-English comments are creating "tension and hostility".

In the southern British principality of Wales, police have also warned that any complaint of anti-English chants or jokes will be treated as a racist attack and could land football fans in jail. Police have been told remarks about the English should be treated no differently than attacks on ethnic minorities. "If it's a specific racist term, that person is liable to be arrested. Shouting something like 'English b*****d' could be considered a racist attack if somebody is offended by that. It's no different to calling somebody a 'Pakistani b*****d', a Welsh police source told Matt Withers of Wales on Sunday. "It could be all sorts of English comments. There are people who find being called 'Taffy' by the English racist. It all depends on the complaint."

But Paul Corkrey of Football Supporters' Federation Cymru described the decision as "nonsense". He said: "I really, truly think it's got out of hand. They've gone over the top. It's going to set a precedent and cause problems for the police. What happens if Yorkshire people start kicking off against Lancashire people? They're making a rod for their own backs. Corkrey said he would be supporting "whoever is playing against England".

No comments: