Hundreds of delegates are beginning to arrive in Warsaw for a European-level conference on racism in football that will attract administrators, campaigners and players.
The conference is a three-way partnership between UEFA, FARE and FIFPro and signals a renewed determination to tackle issues that remain a feature of European football.
Also in attendance will be current and former players including France’s most-capped international Lillian Thuram, Pape Samba Ba from Polish side Znicz Pruszkow, Brazilian-born Polish international Roger Guerreiro, Paul Elliott, the first black captain of Chelsea, and Tottenham and Manchester United legend Garth Crooks.
Polish FARE members Never Again, along with the Polish Football Association, will be hosting the event in their home city of Warsaw.
“We’re delighted to be linking up with UEFA for the third conference of this kind. From our perspective, common ground between FARE and UEFA is crucial in putting matters of racism and anti-discrimination on the agenda” said Rafal Pankowski from Never Again.
“Like problems in any walk of life, the first step is to understand that it exists and then to attempt to solve it. In Polish football, and across eastern Europe, we regularly encounter racism. This is a key factor in staging the conference in Warsaw, so we can discuss some of the issues whilst showcasing some of the positive ways in which football can help”.
Workshops debating anti-Semitism, institutional discrimination and Roma minorities will take place over the two days. One topic high on the agenda is Euro 2012, the first time an international tournament will be staged in Eastern Europe.
“The conference will give us a platform to profile some of the progress we’ve made in fighting discrimination in recent years and share some of the plans we have ahead of the Euros”, said Pankowski
Two previous conferences of this type have taken place with the football community: in London in 2003 and in Barcelona in 2006. Both have seen the wider football family come together.
Villareal CF captain Marcos Senna is lending his support to the event in his role as FARE ambassador. In a video message to be shown at the conference, the Euro 2008 winner said:
“From an early age we need to learn to respect everybody because when we get older and have the chance to visit other countries we will want to have the same respect shown towards us”.
“Religion, colour of the skin or nationality cannot be the reason for discrimination”.
The Unite Against Racism Conference will kick off on Tuesday, 3 March.