Vieira Blasts UEFA20 March 2003

Arsenal captain, Patrick Vieira, has accused UEFA of not doing enough to challenge racism in football. His comments come after Arsenal’s 2-1 UEFA Champions League exit at Valencia’s Mestalla stadium.

The game was marred throughout by racist abuse, directed at all of Arsenal’s Black players. At one point Valencia’s John Carew and Arsenal’s Thierry Henry pleaded with fans to stop the abuse. “Carew made a point of asking the crowd to shut up. His attitude was outstanding,” said Valencia coach Rafa Benitez.

After the match, Vieira stated “UEFA are hypocrites – they keep saying they will do something about it but all they are doing is fining clubs £2,000-£3,000 and nothing really happens. It is just words. I don’t think anything will be done about it – it will never change. We have to deal with it and we’ve come to expect it.”

Arsenal Manager, Arsene Wenger said “You don’t want to see things like that, but you don’t hear from the bench what the fans are saying.”

UEFA Respond

UEFA spokesman, Mike Lee, responded: “Patrick is entitled to his view. He has expressed that view and obviously we don’t agree. The figures he gives are inaccurate, the fines have been more severe than that. UEFA has appealed twice recently against the penalties levied by its own disciplinary body. We take it very seriously”

“We deplore racism and UEFA has made clear its strong stance on racism. We have taken disciplinary action and we are engaged in a very major campaign across Europe with the European football family … to kick it out of football.”

“It is important if there has been abuse, and the players themselves have witnessed this, that it is reported officially to UEFA and not just to the media.”

“We will look at the official reports (from the referee and match delegate) and also consider whether there is any other evidence that could be available. But obviously if a player has suffered abuse it is very important that UEFA is contacted and informed.”

Arsenal players were subjected to similar abuse in Eindhoven previously in the competition, with the Dutch club being fined £13,000. Other incidents have lead to UEFA imposing that matches be played behind closed doors, such as after the incidents during Slovakia verse England.

Ironically, UEFA uses the money collected from fines to help fund its good causes which include anti-racist initiatives in football. UEFA also recently hosted the “Unite Against Racism” conference in conjunction with FARE and TheFA.