It has been claimed that Czech Republic defender Theodor Gebre Selassie was the target of racist abuse in his side’s 4-1 defeat at the hands of Russia last week. It is alleged that Gebre Selassie was targeted by Russian fans when he went over to take a corner during the game.
‘Football Against Racism in Europe’, an anti racism pressure group reported the incident. “Our observer reported descriptions of that nature and it was directed at the Czech Republic’s only black player.” Said FARE’s director Piara Powar. He emphasised that the organisation were looking into the incident and searching for more evidence, as the alleged incident was not captured on camera.
The game also saw the displaying of a Russian Empire flag, a symbol that will have been particularly emotive with the Czech supporters. Their history as a neighbour of an often of Russian aggression would make the view of a symbol of Russian Nationalism at a clash between the two nations was clearly not meant in a not antagonistic way.
Aside from the Russian situation there are fears of, and indeed examples of racism in the tournament already. Manchester City‘s Mario Balotelli has been abused, albeit on the internet by his own supporters. The Italian nationalist group “Stormfront”, which is linked to the Ku Klux Klan abused the Manchester City ace saying “you are black, Jewish and should play for Israel” on their website. This stems from Balotelli’s recent visit to Auschwitz.
The England team are also fearful of being targeted by racists with Rio Ferdinand and Ashley Young amongst those worried by racism in football. Young told reporters about racist abuse he was a victim of as a child. “I was 11 and was racially abused by another player, you don’t expect to hear it at any age, but when you’re a youngster even more so. I got on with the game and managed to score two goals”.
UEFA and all the participating nations will hope that Gebre Selassie’s seeming minor brush with racism is the last we see of it in this tournament. The fear though is that it will not be.