And so it begins. Following the many warnings about racial abuse and violence in Poland and Ukraine, the BBC investigation revealing ugly incidents during matches and UEFA's ruling that players will be booked for fleeing abuse, the first reported racist incident has already taken place a full day before Euro 12 even starts.
The Netherlands held an open training session at Krakow, Poland's Stadion Miejski attending by 25,000 spectators on Thursday and "several hundred" people reportedly targeted the team's black players with monkey chants.
The Guardian's Daniel Taylor reports:
The players, on the instructions of the captain, Mark van Bommel, responded by moving their training drills to the other side of the ground. "It is a real disgrace especially after getting back from Auschwitz [the Dutch squad had visited the concentration camp on Wednesday] that you are confronted with this," Van Bommel said. "We will take it up with Uefa and if it happens at a match we will talk to the referee and ask him to take us off the field."
The problems occurred as the players began the session by jogging a lap of the pitch only to be greeted at one end of the stadium with monkey noises and loud jeers. On the second circuit, they were even louder and it was then the players decided not to go around again. "At least now we know what we can encounter," the Holland coach, Bert van Marwijk, said with heavy cynicism. "Very atmospheric."
Making the situation even more awful is that fact that UEFA tried to deny that this was a racial incident, telling the AFP that they talked to the Dutch team, who told them that nothing happened. UEFA also claimed that this was just local fans protesting the fact that Krakow wasn't made one of Poland's four host cities. This obviously wasn't the case.
Van Bommel, however, responded angrily when it was put to him not everyone had heard monkey noises. "You need to open your ears," he said. "If you did hear it, and don't want to hear it, that is even worse."
It's a shame that this has to happen at all (let alone during one of the world's premier sporting events), but it looks like UEFA could be in for a month-long lesson in how ignoring a major problem doesn't make it go away.
UPDATE: Now that they've been caught out, UEFA has declared that are now aware of the racist chanting that took place, but have yet to receive a formal complaint from the Dutch federation.
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