A large high-profile conference against racism in sports coorganized by FARE's Polish partner together with several key ministries and the Polish Olympic Committee took place on 19 October. Jacek Purski gave the keynote speech as a representative of the NEVER AGAIN Association and FARE. He led the 15-strong group of NEVER AGAIN participants on the day. The audience was composed of some 200 officials, players and fans. UEFA, FA, and government members gave presentations, too, including the ministers of sport and of equality.
Sports Minister Adam Giersz underlined that racism is punishable by law in Poland. “It is often that such racist behaviour of sports fans is treated as a joke. However, such incidents have to be treated as violation of the law. Racism is a serious offence and has to be punished,” he said.
After the conference a friendly match against racism was conducted with mixed teams composed of Polish league stars, including African players as well as several famous actors, TV celebrities, and politicians. Stefan Majewski, the new coach of the Polish national team, himself a pillar of the 1982 World Cup bronze medal Polish team, took part in the game. Dariusz Dziekanowski, a Polish 1980s legend and now chairman of the Ex-Footballers' Association, participated, too.
The event follows a new Monitoring Centre being opened in Poland this month, part of the FARE Eastern European Development Project, supported by European football's governing body UEFA. Poland, with Ukraine, hosts the Euro 2012 football championships. “Euro 2012 is both a challenge and an opportunity for anti-racist campaigns” said Dr Rafal Pankowski, the coordinator of the Centre and a member of the NEVER AGAIN Association.
A BBC documentary made last year found widespread racism in Polish football, with monkey chanting and banana throwing not being uncommon when black players are on the field.
At a UEFA conference on the subject last March in Warsaw, the Brazilian-born Roger Guerreiro – who received Polish citizenship last summer, qualifying him to play for Poland during Euro 2008 – said: “I have had the misfortune of encountering racism on the pitch and off it. Racism is an issue related to culture and upbringing. Children watching television can see anti-racist messages. We must all join forces to do something about it. The role of the footballer is very important to raise awareness, especially among young people.”