Fears racism could be a problem at Euro 2012 tournament

fans
Football fans are linked to right wing politics in Poland and Ukraine

It's one of the biggest sporting events of this year but there are fears it could be hit by racism and violence.

Thousands of fans will be heading to Poland and Ukraine for the European Championship in June and July.

Both host countries have a history of problems with hooligans, often linked to far right political groups including Neo-Nazis.

Uefa says it is working hard to make sure the tournament is a success.

Jacek Pulski works for the anti-racism group Never Again, which recently put together a report on the problem.

He said: "Sometimes it's a racist flag, sometimes it's a racist slogan. Unfortunately this still happens in Polish and Ukrainian league matches."

Examples include:

  • A former Polish international who described the country's national team as "Colombian and German stray dogs".
  • Racist slogans and swastikas painted on the door of a building where Nigerian and Zimbabwean players lived
  • Anti-Semitic chanting, banners and marches at matches

Jacek says most people in Poland and Ukraine are excited about the tournament but said: "When we monitor internet forums linked to racist or hooligan groups, we see that there is an interest in showing up and showing the negative side of Polish football."

'Show them'

Eighteen-year-old Albert Bruce, who signed for Legia Warsaw in January from a team in Ghana, says he has had a warm welcome.

"I've never come across any racism at the club or while travelling around. Everyone is very nice with me and I'm happy to be living here."

Albert
Arinze and Albert have different experiences of football in Poland

Arinze Nwolisa has played football in Poland's lower leagues. He says he's had a different experience.

"When you are good, it is a challenge for them," said the 31-year-old, originally from Nigeria.

"Before you enter the pitch, they will be calling you all sorts of names, like monkey.

"When they call me those names, it makes me want to show them who I am."

Former Aston Villa and Chelsea defender Paul Elliott, an ambassador for the anti-racism group Kick it Out, wants Euro 2012 referees to stop matches if players are abused.

"That's his job," he said. "He has a duty of care to those players.

"The referee has the power to stop the game, speak to the stadium announcer, to do everything possible until the situation is resolved."

Uefa says it will have people at every match of the tournament, monitoring to make sure there isn't any racist abuse inside or outside the stadiums.

The monitors will file a report after every game and Uefa has the power to take disciplinary action against countries whose supporters misbehave.