A Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) consultation meeting took place in Kiev on 2 May. The informal meeting was well attended, which illustrates a strong interest in common activities against racism in football among Ukrainian FARE partners. It is also a testimony to the networking work in Ukraine conducted by the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association in frames of the FARE East European Development Project.
Among others, the following groups and organizations were represented: the Football Against Prejudices coalition, African and Indian migrant communities, the Congress of National Minorities in Ukraine, the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, the East European Development Institute, Amnesty International, Social Alternative, No Borders, Social Action Centre, ‘Zakhist Praci’ Trade Union, Arsenal Kiev FC, Youth Human Rights Movement-Ukraine, anti-fascist groups from Kiev and Dnepropetrovsk, anti-racist fans from Arsenal Kiev and Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk (who traveled for 8 hours by train to Kiev from eastern Ukraine). There were also representatives of the Polish ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association, the Youth Human Rights Movement from Russia, the Green movement and the ‘Partisan’ anti-fascist magazine and monitoring group from Belarus and Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly from Moldova. The meeting was prepared by the Football Against Prejudices coalition, with assistance from the ‘Zakhist Praci’ Trade Union and the Kiev branch of the Rosa Luxembourg Foundation. The lively discussion was conducted in Russian, Ukrainian and English.
The work of FARE and the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association was presented with a special focus on the East Europe Monitoring Centre, the FARE East European Development Project as well as the challenges and opportunities posed by EURO2012 in Poland and Ukraine.
The question of an underrepresentation of ethnic minorities attending football games in Ukraine and possible measures to address it were discussed in depth. According to participants, currently ethnic minority fans are excluded from enjoying football on a very basic level because their physical safety is endangered. The question of racist and far-right hegemony in Ukrainian stadiums was mentioned as a most pressing issue. Racist banners and ‘White Power’ symbols such as the Celtic cross are frequently displayed while far-right groups dominate the fan culture, including in EURO2012 host cities such as Lviv and Kharkiv. Alarming evidence of growing links between fan groups and far-right political movements such as the extreme-right Svoboda party was discussed.
Several priority themes and ideas for future action were identified in the discussion, including: documentation, monitoring and awareness raising in cooperation with mass media, lobbying clubs and the Football Federation of Ukraine to take steps against racist behaviour and banners (here the role of FARE and UEFA was stressed by many participants), organizing street football tournaments with the participation of ethnic minority teams to promote anti-racism and diversity.
“It was one of the best discussions on racism and xenophobia in football I have heard for years” – said Dr Rafal Pankowski, coordinator of the East Europe Monitoring Centre. – “The problems are serious, but I am confident we can take anti-racism in Eastern Europe to a new level in the next months and years”.