A special investigation into entrenched racism and organised violence among football supporters in the Euro 2012 host countries of Poland and Ukraine.
By
Chris Rogers

Airdate: 
Tuesday, June 12, 2012 - 21:32
Channel: 
SBS One

The Euro 2012 tournament is supposed to represent a united European family of football, but nothing could be further from the thoughts of some fans in the host countries of Poland and Ukraine.

As the matches get underway, Dateline broadcasts a special investigation by the BBC's Panorama into entrenched racism and organised violence among football supporters in both countries.

Chris Rogers sees first-hand the Nazi worship and anti-semitism at matches and in local communities, hears black players being targeted as 'monkeys', and witnesses Indian fans being attacked on the terraces while officials look on.

One senior Ukrainian policeman even insists that what appears to be a Nazi salute is in fact friendly fans pointing at their opponents.

The tournament organiser, UEFA, says it has zero tolerance of racism and defends its choice of host nations, but it's coming under increased scrutiny about its decision and whether it can ensure the safety of visiting teams and their supporters.

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- Apologies, but this special investigation is no longer available to watch for copyright reasons. You can however still read the transcript.

EURO 2012 - SBS is broadcasting Euro 2012, including live coverage of four finals. Go to The World Game website for all the details.

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Transcript

First, to Europe, where the Euro 2012 Football Championship is now under way but there's a dark cloud hanging over the event with new evidence the sport is blighted by entrenched racism in the host countries of Poland and Ukraine. In this special investigation, reporter Chris Rogers from the BBC's Panorama program, visits both countries to see for himself how football fans have embraced Nazi worship in what seems to be a new wave of often violent anti-Semitism, with authorities there unwilling or unable to control it.

REPORTER: Chris Rogers

UEFA has a vision, a vision of a united European family of football - this June the family of football has chosen to pay a visit to Eastern Europe. With a 100 years of football history, they've got some of the most passionate fans in the world. They've got the stadiums. They've got the spectacle. But they've also got a big problem - a reputation for violence and racism. So does the family of football really know what it's letting itself in for? I've spent a month watching league matches across these two countries to find out.

My first stop is Lodz, a city the size of Birmingham. It's not a host city for Euro 2012, but I have been told to see the dark heart of Polish football, I should come and watch the Lodz derby.

FOOTBALL FANS (Translation): Poland!

LKS versus Widzew - for this match, visiting fans have been banned from the LKS stadium. It's just an hour before kick-off. LKS fans starts running battles with the police who just want to get them in the stadium.

REPORTER: Well it seems a lot of them definitely came here for a fight but with no-one to fight because the away fans are banned from the match they have turned on the police. They started to target us for a little while there, throwing stones and firecrackers at us. It seems like anyone's a target if you're not one of them.

Every team in Poland has a hard core of supporters. They call themselves Ultras. Ultras create noise and atmosphere at Polish games. They also love to abuse the opposition.

FOOTBALL FANS (Translation): Jewish whores! Jewish whores!

At this match, I was shocked to hear the terraces chanting that the opposing team, were Jews.

FOOTBALL FANS (Translation): Anyone not jumping is a Jew. Death to the Jewish whores!

None of the Ultras would talk to me but I did speak to a fan who hadn't joined in the chanting.

REPORTER: Tell me about the anti-Semitic chanting? What's all that about?

FOOTBALL FAN (Translation): These people who are shouting it, they don't think they are actually insulting Jewish people, they just use it as a weapon to attack the opposite fans and opposite club.

REPORTER: But they must think badly of Jews if they think it's an insult?

FOOTBALL FAN (Translation): Yeah. They know it's an insult.

In Lodz, two teams trade the word Jew as an insult both on the pitch and in a tit for tat graffiti war, all this in a city where during the Second World War the Nazis all but exterminated its 230,000 Jews. For some football fans, the word Jew is now used to mean someone who deserves to be defeated or even killed.

JONATHAN ORNSTEIN, JEWISH CULTURAL CENTRE, KRAKOW: I lived in Lodz and I was shocked I remember on the main street there was ah, a sign Jews to the gas and the people that wrote weren't the people that really, it didn't upset me so much that people wrote it, the idea that 1000s of people walked past that every day and let that happen was very disturbing to me.

Jonathan Ornstein has lived in Poland for over 10 years. He believes most Poles happily accept other faiths but the football hooligans are yet to catch up with wider Polish society.

JONATHAN ORNSTEIN: I think they're looking to demonise the other team and the imagery that's used is Jewish imagery and I would call that anti - Semitic. The stuff going on at the football stadiums is atrocious and it's embarrassing and I think it embarrasses the whole country.

My next stop was Warsaw, the Polish capital, a host city for Euro 2012 and where fans from all across Europe will be welcomed. Warsaw's biggest team is Legia, they have one of the largest followings in the Polish Premiership. However, this particular branch of the family of football also has a skeleton in the closet.

REPORTER: If you're arriving here by train, this is the greeting you'll get and further down the platform it doesn't say, "Welcome to Warsaw," it says, "Welcome to hell."

This graffiti celebrates the White Legion, one of many violent groups organised around football. Across the city they spray their devotion to their team and to their politics.

JACEK PURSKI, NEVER AGAIN FOUNDATION: What we have here is racist graffiti; it also contains a very important racist symbol, so called a Celtic cross, the white power sign. This symbol is the one that you can meet very often during matches.

Jacek Purski's work is financially supported by UEFA to both monitor and combat racism among fans.

JACEK PURSKI: It is illegal to display such hate symbols during football matches. And according to Polish law, putting this symbol at this wall is illegal because it promotes fascism and it promotes racism.

In Lodz, I'd seen racist banners praising White Pride and heard fans were making monkey sounds at black players.

REPORTER: Are you familiar with that, that they make monkey sounds?

UGO UKAH, FORMER WIDZEW FC: I am, I am. I try to ignore it because many people are doing it. I have problems with players sometimes on the field and I try not to focus about it and just try to go on my way.

REPORTER: What kind of things do they say to you?

PRINCE OKACHI, WIDZEW FC: Bad words like ;. You're a monkey or something like that, you know?

REPORTER: Is there a system you can go to, is there someone you can report it to?

PRINCE OKACHI: The only person is the referee which is not going to do anything about it. He will say, "Keep going."

Racist symbols and anti-Semitic chants have been a part of Polish football for years. There are no official figures but a UEFA-funded report revealed that in 2010, there were 133 serious hate crimes inside Polish stadiums.

JACEK PURSKI: Of course we hope to have a very peaceful, non-racist Euro 2012 but still around during league matches, from time to time some incidents appear.

Incidents like one that took place here. This is Rzeszow, a small town in southern Poland. Two years ago, fans displayed a huge banner declaring 'death to hook noses.' At the time, it went unpunished though a year later, the Polish FA fined the club and a senior official lost his job. Even so, we filmed a repeat performance in April this year. This time a banner declared the presence of the anti-Jew Front. Although nothing was done during the match, police later arrested the man holding the banner. The club was also fined £1,000 and the supporters were given a two-match ban.

JONATHAN ORNSTEIN: There's been a push as of late, obviously before the Euro, they don't want Poland to be embarrassed. We'll see what happens with that, but I think there needs to be a much deeper, more prolonged effort to eradicate not only anti-Semitism but I think we are talking about racism and xenophobia I think is part of a larger issue here.

This is Krakow, a city that's football crazy. This medieval city is also going to be home to the England squad during Euro 2012. It's another town where hooligans have hijacked the word Jew.

Tonight, it's the Krakow derby - Wisla versus Cracovia - also known as the Holy War for the intense rivalry between the two teams. Just a few seats away from mine, I spot two Wisla fans, both are wearing what look like anti-Semitic T-shirts. Polish Ultras weren't willing to speak on camera so I secretly filmed a chat at half-time.

FAN: This T-shirt is very important to me today;

REPORTER: Why is it important to you today?

FAN: Because Jews started the club Cracovia

REPORTER: So you call them Jews?

FAN: Yes, yes. Wisla get as Polish club - Cracovia this Jewish club

REPORTER: Oh I see so, Cracovia is a Jewish club, your club is a Polish club. I got it.

Soon, the war of words turned in to a war of fireworks and missiles. Separated by plexiglass, the opposing hooligans vented their anger on stewards and police. Watching the match was Nick Lowles, from 'Hope not Hate' an anti-racist monitoring group. He had flown out to see what British fans could expect in Poland.

NICK LOWLES, HOPE NOT HATE: Anti-Semitism is very strong in Poland and as we saw tonight, people has T-shirts on, people were not being confronted by stewards. My concern is what happens outside the stadium. The positive thing about English football is increasing numbers of black and Asian fans have been travelling and supporting England and I'm concerned that they will be targeted by racist and fascists and anti-Semites in Poland and Ukraine.

It's not just Eastern Europe where racism in football is still an issue. This season has seen charges of racism hit the headlines across Europe, especially in the UK, where England's John Terry was stripped of his captaincy and will play in Euro 2012 knowing he faces a racism trial on his return. Whatever the outcome, one man who has faced racism at first-hand is another former England captain, Sol Campbell, I showed him our footage of Poland to see how the two countries compared.

SOL CAMPBELL, FORMER ENGLISH CAPTAIN: Incredible how organised it is. All the chants of killing Jews, it's sickening to the core. I'm just glad it's not like that in England. I know it was at one stage but in the 21st century, this is on a different level.

Leaving Poland behind, I wondered if what I would find in Ukraine could possibly be worse? This is the capital, Kiev. Ukraine looks ready to host the Euros but were their fans ready to welcome waves of visitors from all across Europe? I went to a Premier League match - Karpaty Lviv versus locals Arsenal Kiev.

UEFA say they have zero tolerance of racism on the terraces, yet these distant cousins in the family of football seem to have zero tolerance for anyone who isn't white. While police and stewards look on, a relative of one black player can't help but respond.

SOL CAMPBELL: That is just so sad. It's incredible. The funny thing about it is there's little kids, girls and boys.

As recently as 2008, Sol Campbell was racially abused at a Premiership match. Those fans were arrested and prosecuted but at this match in Ukraine, police did nothing.

SOL CAMPBELL: I can't believe it., it just makes me feel sick. I feel empty watching it and I feel hurtful because I know what those guys are going through. I hate to live in a place like that. Just going in to play a football game and they are being subjected to all this abuse. And no-one's doing anything about it.

Kharkiv, Ukraine's second city and hosts of Euro 2012.

FOOTBALL FANS (Translation): Forwards, yellow and blue!

This is the Metalist Stadium, soon to host Portuguese, Dutch, Danish and German national teams. What went on here, I'd only seen in films about the Second World War - Massed ranks all doing a Nazi salute.

REPORTER: Throughout the first half I saw men, women, girls and boys of all ages doing the Hitler salute and chanting 'sieg heil'. I've spoken to a few of the fans here and they've confirmed that they are saying 'sieg heil' because Hitler hated Jews and blacks and that's how they support their team.

With Euro 2012 just round the corner, what were the police planning to do about it?

REPORTER: How concerned are you about the possibility of racist displays inside the Metalist Stadium?

COL. VOLODYMYR KOVRYGIN, KHARKIV POLICE (Translation): Regarding Kharkiv and the whole of the Ukraine ...err.. up to this very moment, and I hope this will hold for the Euro 2012 Championship, we have had no such incidents and there will be none. And in fact, Ukrainian fans are very friendly.

REPORTER: At the Metalist Stadium- I saw approximately 2,000 people do the Nazi salute to their team.

COL. VOLODYMYR KOVRYGIN (Translation): No, it's not a Nazi salute, they are sort of pointing at their rivals, other fans, so it looked like they were pointing right arms at other fans, sort of to get their attention. It's not Nazi salute.

Perhaps something had been lost in translation. I was sure of what I'd seen - football fans doing Nazi salutes. Across town, I met up with a football fanatic who is also part of a far right organisation.

VADYM: We hide this place in the market, which is why nobody can find us, any cops, any government guys you know.

Vadym didn't have any time for UEFA's vision of a multiculturalism family of football.

VADYM: The celtic cross, sure and it's not crowded today because we don't have a match, so people just want to relax.

REPORTER: Does it annoy you if the black players are playing for your team?

VADYM: Yeah for us, for everybody not just a few fans, hooligans and other people in the stadium

REPORTER: Do you let that player know?

VADYM: Yeah, yeah

REPORTER: How?

VADYM: Everybody hear this bad words you know ;; very bad words.

The whole bar was a shrine to far right extremism. They had Celtic crosses, swastikas and white power symbols. There was also an unhealthy obsession with Nazi Germany. But it was harder to pin down exactly what Vadym believed in.

REPORTER: Are you a Nazi?

VADYM: No, no. Not Nazis, not neo-Nazi, no, no..

REPORTER: Do you support some aspects of what Adolf Hitler believed in?

VADYM: Some aspects yes, some aspects because Germany would not be Germany right now without Adolf Hitler.

Vadym is a recruiter for a group called Patriot of Ukraine. This is a Patriot video where they claim to be rounding up illegal immigrants that they want deported.

VADYM: One race, one nation, one fatherland. We must prepare for the, sometimes we think its civil war. Of course nobody wants to have some war otherwise somebody dies some may not, you know but we must be prepared for everything.

REPORTER: Do you recruit from the stands and try and find new members?

VADYM: Oh yeah!

I could see why football terraces could be fertile recruiting grounds for the Patriots. Since the break-up of the Soviet Union, right wing politics and hooliganism have gone hand in hand.

FOOTBALL FANS (Translation): Why are there so few of you?

At this match, I spotted two fans of Patriot logos on their T-shirts and it wasn't long before the fascist-style salutes began. It was a gesture I would see at every Ukrainian game I went to.

I had another appointment with the Patriots, this time to see how they took football hooligans and trained them for more organised violence.

VADYM: So we are waiting for one of the members of the organization, a famous trainer of knife battles.

REPORTER: So we're waiting for a trainer for the use of knives. OK.

VADYM: They don't know about it;

REPORTER: You keep it secret.

VADYM: We keep it secret.

I'd seen videos of Patriot events where they'd rallied hundreds of supporters but at this training session there were just a handful of recruits.

RECRUITS (Translation): Glory to Ukraine! Glory to heroes.

There are no reliable figures for Patriot membership but they do have a presence in all the Euro 2012 host cities.

What makes them dangerous is not only their extreme right wing views but they're clearly ready for violence.

British Government advice for Euro 2012 is for black or Asian fans to take extra care in Ukraine because of the possibility of racist violence. Officially, Patriots say they don't condone attacks on foreigners. When I spoke to one recruiter, that didn't sound so clear-cut.

RECRUIT (Translation): We are learning many things, how to shoot, tactical combat, and we are getting military training. At the same time we are learning street fighting. Because my face is hidden, I can also add that these skills have more than once been useful to us on the streets.

I have no way of knowing how much of what the Patriots say is just bluster but earlier this month in the host city of Kharkiv, there were two stabbings and both victims were Nigerian students. In April, UEFA responded to the possibility of racist attacks. They announced funding for so-called 'inclusivity zones' - secure areas outside of stadiums where supporters of all backgrounds can feel safe. But have UEFA done enough to combat racism before the tournament begins?

We asked for an interview with Michel Platini, the president of UEFA. But we were told that he was too busy to speak to us. However, in a statement, UEFA told us that their zero-tolerance approach is still valid both on and off the pitch and ultimately, the referee has the power to stop or abandon a match should racist incidents occur. And that Euro 2012 brings a spotlight on the host countries and clearly creates an opportunity to address and confront such societal issues.

Back at the Metalist Stadium in Kharkiv, it was the final game of the season. Off the pitch, it was set to be the most violent.

REPORTER: This is one of the stadiums that will be hosting matches of Euro 2012. Tonight it's hosting a match between two of the country's biggest teams. The local police have told me they've never seen any evidence of racism in these terraces.

Vadym, from the Patriots, took me in to one of the most volatile parts of the stadium, the Ultras stand.

REPORTER: Why are you in competition with that guy over there? Bloody hell.

It wasn't long before it lived up to its reputation.

REPORTER: Bloody hell. I'm getting out of here.

Things went from bad to worse. With no segregation in the stadium, scuffles are breaking out between rival fans all over. Suddenly, the Metalist hooligans spotted a new target - a small group of their own supporters, only these supporters weren't white Ukrainians, they were Asian.

SOL CAMPBELL: Innocent people, innocent. Look at them. It's just gangland. No-one's helping. No police is helping. Look at that. Look at that. That is absolutely disgusting. I cannot believe that. Someone at last is helping him. It's lawless. It's lawless. I want to cry. Someone is leaving thinking, "Is someone going to kill me today because of my colour?"

These Indian students had been studying in Ukraine for the last few years. They sat in the stadium's family section thinking it would be safe. Ukrainian football does fine clubs when fans misbehave but the FA was unable to tell us if any action was taken over this incident. At EURO 2012, UEFA say the Ukrainians will have primary responsibility for their fans' safety.

FAN: We were supporting the home team - we were supporting the home team.

FAN 2: We were almost leaving - they closed the two sides and we can't move.

REPORTER: So it was very planned - they trapped you?

FAN 2: Yeah - they trapped.

REPORTER: Gosh. Are the police going to help you get home safely?

FAN: No, no, no. Police are not helpful at all.

REPORTER: They are not going to help you get home?

FAN: They are not helpful at all. It's horrifying you know.

REPORTER: Do you think UEFA were wrong then to choose Poland and Ukraine?

SOL CAMPBELL: I think they were wrong. What they should say is until we see massive improvement that you have sorted it out - you're never going to get this tournament. You don't deserve these prestigious tournaments in your country.

REPORTER: Would you recommend families to travel to Euro 2012?

SOL CAMPBELL: No chance. Stay at home. Watch it on TV. Don't even risk it because you could end up and come back in a coffin.

UEFA say the legacy of Euro 2012 will be to help address racism in both Poland and Ukraine. But to achieve that, UEFA will need to give a clearer signal that zero tolerance to racism is more than just a slogan.

YALDA HAKIM: Chris Rogers with that disturbing report. There's more about Euro 2012 on our website with SBS broadcasting the tournament, including live coverage of four of the finals.

Reporter
CHRIS ROGERS

Producer
LEO TELLING

Camera
JON HILLYER

Assistant Producer/Camera
JASON GWYNNE

Videotape Editors
BOYD NAGLE
GARY BEELDERS

Dubbing Mixer
ANDREW SEARS

Film Researcher
REBECCA FORSEY

Ukrainian Fixer
TARAS SHUMEYKO

Editor
TOM GILES

12th June 2012