Czech Roma football club facing exclusion due to racist attacks10 July 2011

Disciplinary fines could close FC Děčín; it’s chairman says many incidents were sparked by racist abuse

A Czech football club composed of Roma players which has been threatened with closure because of its mounting disciplinary fines, says that many of the incidents it has been involved in were caused by racist remarks and will lead to one of the few positive community institutions in the town disappearing.

FC Děčín, which plays in a local third division league in the deprived north of the country, has fines of around Kč 34,000 (1400€) and no way to pay.

The local football association wrote-off some of FC Děčín’s previous fines but says that without payment of the outstanding sum the team will be banned for next season. Association officials say they are not picking on the club, just merely imposing the rules.

But FC Děčín chairman Ladislav Čisár says the club has no way of finding such a sum because it has no sponsors and does not charge its players membership fees. The only help it gets is from the local council, he said. “When it comes to us Roma, nobody is about to help us,” he told the website. “We will nonetheless try to continue,” he added.

Fights following racial abuse
The club’s current problems largely stem from a fight in the closing stages of a local derby game against rival team Lokomotiv Děčín at the end of May. Raised tempers at the end of the match spilled over into an all out fight in the changing rooms with three Lokomotiv players suffering serious injuries — and the referee verbally abused.

As a result, FC Děčín was fined Kč 28,000 and two players banned from playing league football for two and three years respectively. Čisár told Aktuálně.cz that the incident was sparked by a player on the opposing team who used racially abusive language. Much of the club’s previous fines were down to such racist abuse, he said.

To add to the club’s problems, the referee at the derby game told the news server that many of his counterparts feared taking charge of FC Děčín games because the team was unruly and matches had such an explosive and violent potential.

Other teams in the league say they will not play against FC Děčín in the upcoming season even if it overcomes its financial problems and is allowed to carry on in the league. A Facebook site calling for the club to be disbanded has been launched.

Community function of club
Most of the comments call for the Roma club to fold with a few dissenting voices. “Poor devils, you thought you could play real football with the whites without violence … that could only be the hope of, if you forgive the expression, an idiot,” was one of the comments posted.

Local Roma activists say the club should continue because it provides a positive outlet for youths in the town. “I think the club should remain. That’s partly because of its long tradition, but also due to the fact that lads from the ghetto, on the margins of society, are playing there,” local Roma activist Radek Horváth told Aktuálně.cz.

The local council, run by a coalition between the Social Democrats (ČSSD) and local grouping Volba pro Město Děčín (Choice for Děčín Town), which pays FC Děčín’s pitch hire expenses, was not available for comment on whether it would seek to keep the club going or let it fold.

Soros criticises situation of Roma
Roma players are mostly absent from the Czech professional football game and its lower levels adding to the social exclusion of Roma and leading to concerns about the recreational facilities available to Roma.

Financier and philanthropist George Soros whose Open Society foundation supports activities on Roma education in the country recently criticised the Czech government for “the current state of education of Roma children in the Czech Republic… in spite of the Czech Republic having financial resources, support from structural funds, capacities, and qualified people”.