Fans, Clubs, their players and ethnic minority groups throughout Europe have drawn a line in the sand against racism – enough is enough, we want our game back.
Over the past month, fans and players at all levels of the game have come together to take a defiant stand against racism and discrimination. This huge series of events was part of the FARE (Football Against Racism in Europe) Action Week. The Action Week has proven to be a resounding successful with more than a thousand activities happening in 32 European countries, reaching millions with a strong anti- racism message.
This year’s Action Week was FARE’s most successful in Eastern Europe. All Slovak First League teams showed racism the red card. In Romania, following a season marred with anti-gypsy incidents, several top flight clubs took a stand under the banner “United against discrimination”. While Hungarian club Ferencvaros TC, known to have some Nazi supporters, presented a banner “Fradi against Racism” at their match against Diosgyor VTK.
Europe’s best join in
A highlight of this year’s Action Week was UEFA’s high profile Champions League matches on 18 and 19 October. Europe’s top players entered the pitch accompanied by children wearing “Unite Against Racism” T-shirts, whilst tannoy announcements and features in the matchday programmes highlighted the campaign. Over half a million spectators witnessed the events live in the stadiums, whereas millions more viewed via live TV broadcasts.
A massive effort in the UK
Community groups, clubs and campaigners in the UK hosted a staggering 600 events. In an extraordinary feat of coordination, all 92 professional clubs in England and Wales, together with all 42 Scottish clubs, joined in the action.
Arsenal’s record-breaking goal scorer, Thierry Henry, played his part in the Action Week. Already active as the spearhead behind Nike’s recent anti-racist “Stand Up, Speak Up” campaign, Henry met local youngsters to discuss his experiences of racism and to offer practical advice on how to report it.
Meanwhile, hip hop sensation Ms Dynamite took time out for the cause. She joined footballers Shaun Bartlett and Paul Elliot on a boat trip with 200 lucky youngsters from across London. The trip, as part of Charlton Athletic’s anti-racism day, gave the children the opportunity to ask the star-studded panel about football and racism, before attending the Charlton – Fulham match.
Spanish move forward
In Spain, fan groups from the length and breadth of the country came together in response to last year’s international headlines caused by a string of racist incidents. The groups came together in an historic meeting to plan their activities. Twelve different ultra fan groups displayed their “Ultras antiracista unidos” (Anti-racist ultras united) banner at various Liga 1 and 2 games.
Planting the seeds
A significant development this year has been the increase of community and grass-roots led activities. Schools, community groups and everyday people have grabbed the bull by the horns, to make their communities safer and more tolerant for everybody. Particularly encouraging is that many of these new activities have been in countries that typically have not previously had established anti-racist campaigns.
People throughout Europe have voted with their feet. They are sick of racism spoiling their game. Come in racists, your time is up!