Next week the soccer teams of 16 European countries will take to the field in Euro 2012, the world's most profitable soccer tournament after the World Cup. But sadly, there are fears that fans' animosity will be directed not just at players from opposing teams but also at athletes and fans of other races.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the hostile climate could take a serious toll on the event:
But another type of snarl is threatening to overshadow the tournament — the vileness of racism, hooliganism and corruption.
Ukraine seems to be the main focus for the fears although Poland has not escaped scrutiny. British media reports that ultranationalist hooligans could be planning attacks on visitors. Fans are being warned to stay away. Former England player, Sol Campbell, warned black and Asian supporters not to travel. The return leg of the journey could be in a coffin, Campbell says. Current England star Theo Walcott will not have his family there to support him. His father and brother are following Campbell's advice that "some things are not worth the risk." Both Walcott and Campbell are black. Add Mario Balotelli to the mix — the Italian and Manchester City star says he will not tolerate racist abuse and will "kill" anyone who throws a banana at him in the street while in Poland and Ukraine. "I will go to jail."
Visiting fans in trouble may be hard-pressed to find help from Ukraine police. Polls indicate that 90 percent of Ukrainians don't trust the cops amid reports of police violence, corruption and the robbing of civilians by officers. All this may explain why only 5,000 England fans have bought tickets through official outlets, compared with the World Cup in Germany in 2006 when 100,000 made the trip.
Read more at SFGate.