The European football championships begin in Poland and Ukraine in just over a week, but a BBC documentary is warning English fans to stay away and one Italian player has threatened to kill anyone who dares to taunt him about his race. So the tournament is not off to a great start so far.
The local organizers of the quadrennial tournament are furious over a BBC film that aired on Monday titled Stadiums of Hate. It depicts local soccer fans in the two host nations as violent, Nazi-loving racists — charges that have been leveled at more than few English soccer fans over the years. (The ex-captain of English national team will actually go on trial this year on charges that he abused a black opponent.) The show included footage of Polish and Ukrainian fans making monkey noises at black players, throwing up Nazi salutes and anti-Semitic chants in the stands, and beating up minority fans—even those supporting the same team.
Obviously, these are particularly sensitive topics in Poland, but it's a problem that's not unique to Eastern Europe or Great Britain or anywhere else in the world, for that matter. Mario Balotelli, a black Italian striker who currently plays for Manchester City, has encountered racism wherever he's played; including his home country, where rival fans once threw a banana at him in the street. Balotelli said if it happens again during Euro 2012, "I will go to jail because I will kill them." He also threatened to "walk off the pitch and return home" if fans in Poland or the Ukraine taunt him during matches.