Not to put a damper on the upcoming European Championships, but there’s been a lot of news lately regarding possible racial attacks on players and fans in Ukraine. There has also been video news footage of organized, political hooligans taking part in military-style training camps.
This doesn’t bode well for England and it’s believed a lot of supporters are simply going to stay home this summer and watch the tournament on TV instead of dealing with any possible aggravation and the sky-high hotel prices. Apparently those who are taking the threats seriously include the families of Arsenal wingers Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
It’s been reported that Walcott’s father and brother have decided to stay away from Euro 2012 due to safety concerns. It’s unfortunate that the family of a football player don’t feel safe watching him play, but sadly, that’s what the world has come to in 2012. It’s especially a shame for Oxlade-Chamberlain’s family, since Alex is the youngest player on the squad and will be making his international debut in a major tournament.
Theo’s brother, Ashley, said his Jamaican father, Don, and he don’t want to take the risk of being targets of fanatical Ukrainians and voiced his concerns on the Twitter social network. Ashley tweeted that he doesn’t understand why the European Championships are being held in a nation that has problems policing itself.
UEFA is also taking the situation seriously and is supposedly setting up special safe supporter areas for non-Caucasians and will be offering advice on which areas of the cities and bars they should visit and which ones they should stay away from. The safe zones are to be created in city centres as well as outside the stadiums.
Manchester City defender Joleon Lescott said it’s a shame that some of the squad’s family members don’t feel safe travelling to Euro 2012. He added that his own family won’t be going to the event, but it was a decision they made before reports about possible attacks from Ukrainian hooligans were released. He said they might change their minds if England reach the final, but his main concern is his family’s safety and happiness.
The Sun newspaper infiltrated a Ukrainian right-wing militia group earlier in the year, which was reportedly preparing to target English players and supporters. While jeering and booing of players and fans can usually be handled, any physical violence is another matter. The Daily Telegraph said the Foreign Office is warning racial and religious minorities to take extra care if heading to Ukraine for the event.
Andy Holt, the senior police officer in charge of English football matters, said the Ukrainian authorities aren’t as advanced in anti-racism matters as many other parts of the world. He stated that two dozen police officers will attend England’s games to try and ward off any trouble, and the fact that over 2,000 fans have been banned from travelling to the tournament might ease any friction.
Holt said most England supporters are well behaved these days, but they still have a bad reputation around the globe due to numerous sickening incidents in the past. He added that the problem has been trying to convince local media in other countries that football hooliganism has declined greatly in Britain.