“This what I believe in, we come together and leave as better people” Ruud Gullit
As final preparations for Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine got under on opening day (Friday 8 June) the FARE network and UEFA launched the Respect Diversity – Football Unites project with support from Ruud Gullit, Emmanuel Olisadebe, UEFA Executive Committee member Peter Gilliéron, Poland's deputy foreign affairs minister Beata Stelmach and around 100 guests and media.
The event at the Polish Foreign Ministry Palace also heard from Rafa³ Pankowski of the Never Again association and coordinator of the FARE programme for UEFA EURO 2012, and Wilfried Lemke, the United Nations Secretary General's special adviser on sport for development and peace.
The Respect Diversity – Football Unites programme includes monitoring at matches, anti-discrimination messages at every game, a joint protocol on the reporting of incidents, a commitment to take disciplinary sanctions, a campaign focus at the semi-finals that will include diversity messages from team captains and a Streetkick tour.
Monkey chants at training session
The event took place in the shadow of reported monkey chants at an open training session for the Netherlands team in Cracow, Poland, where black players were targeted for abuse. An event that Ruud Gullit said “It’s a pity this has happened now and I hope it was just an isolated incident.”
Asked by a TV reporter what he thought of the “alleged” incident Gullit immediately said: “It was not alleged. It happened and I hope we do not see more”.
Along with Gullit several other renowned ex-footballers – Paul Elliot, Dariusz Dziekanowski, Emmanuel Olisadebe, Garth Crooks and, representing the players' union FIFPro, Tony Higgins – came together in a panel discussion to spread the joint message that racism can have no place in the game and celebrate the diversity that ethnic minorities have brought to the game.
« We are here to celebrate diversity: diversity in football and diversity in society, » Mr Gilliéron told the audience. « Football has been striving to better itself and to contribute to a betterment of society by fostering tolerance and respect. »
Difficult discussions will lead to change
Rafal Pankowski spoke of the need to engage the two host countries in “difficult discussions on difficult issues that we believe will contribute to a positive long- term change in our societies.”
Earlier in the day Gullit had opened the Streetkick activities in the Warsaw Fan Camp to a rapturous welcome from fans, camp workers and a large media gathering. He said at the event, “This what I believe in, we come together as human beings to kick a ball and leave as better people.”
See the interview with Ruud Gullit and Paul Elliott on CNN