On the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association published the ‘Brown Book’ – documentation of racist, xenophobic and homophobic crimes and acts of discrimination in Poland in the years 2020-2023. It also covers discriminatory behaviour at stadiums and racist incidents involving football hooligans.
The long-time author of the ‘Brown Book’ was the late Marcin Kornak (1968-2014), founder of the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association, social justice activist and poet. He was the mind behind social campaigns promoting respect and diversity, among them he initiated ‘Let’s Kick Racism out of the Stadiums’ in 1996: the first football campaign against racism and antisemitism in Central and Eastern Europe. 20 March marked the ninth anniversary of his death.
The United Nations General Assembly established 21 March as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 1966 to commemorate the Sharpeville massacre in South Africa. On this day in 1960, police opened fire on Black people protesting against apartheid. Sixty-nine protesters were killed and one hundred and eighty were injured. The tragic anniversary is commemorated all over the world to express opposition to racism, discrimination, and xenophobia.
The latest edition of the ‘Brown Book’ describes examples of racist flags appearing at stadiums, cases of abuse against Black football players, or antisemitic chants. The hooligans were displaying banners containing Nazi symbols such as the Totenkopf (the sign of a skull used by concentration camp guards), the slogan ‘Blood and honour’ (the motto of the Hitlerjugend), or the Celtic cross (a symbol of white supremacy). They were also manifesting their hostility to refugees from Ukraine by displaying flags with the slogan ‘Stop Ukrainisation’.
– ‘Discriminatory behaviour at Polish stadiums remains virtually unpunished. The football authorities rarely react, and even if any fines are imposed on the clubs, they are usually at a minimum level’, co-author of the report Dr. Anna Tatar said. – ‘The reality of this problem being ignored can be seen, for example, when Motor Lublin hooligans display a banner with the SS motto «Loyalty is our honour». It has been present at the stadium for years, and the club, the city of Lublin as the sponsor, and the Polish Football Association, they all have allowed it to happen’, she added.
The ‘Brown Book’ also documents street demonstrations involving football hooligans where slogans inciting hatred were present. – ‘Shoulder to shoulder with the far right, they participated in anti-refugee protests and attacks on LGBT people. The hooligans also attacked women’s protests against near-total ban on abortion in Poland, and supported the marches of COVID-19 deniers’, representatives of the ‘NEVER AGAIN’ Association emphasised.
Selected examples of events documented in the ‘Brown Book 2020-2023’:
GDANSK. On 4 March 2020, during a football match between Lechia Gdansk and Legia Warszawa, local hooligans displayed a flag in support of Janusz Walus, who was serving a life sentence in South Africa for the murder in 1993 of anti-apartheid activist Chris Hani.
BIALYSTOK. On 28 June 2020, after the match between Jagiellonia Bialystok and Lechia Gdansk, a few local hooligans shouted racist slurs at Jagiellonia’s captain, Taras Romanczuk (a Polish citizen who was born in Ukraine). Men yelled, ‘You’re not Polish!’ and ‘Go back to Ukraine!’
ILAWA. On 12 August 2020, in front of Ilawa Town Hall, a group of men, including Jeziorak Ilawa football hooligans, disrupted a protest against homophobic violence. The aggressors shouted insults at the protesters and threw a banger at them.
NOWY DWOR MAZOWIECKI. On 5 June 2021, during the football match Swit Nowy Dwor Mazowiecki – Polonia Warszawa, local hooligans insulted a black Polonia player, Junior Radzinski. They made monkey chants. The referee failed to react.
LUBLIN. On 8 August 2021, during the football match Motor Lublin – Ruch Chorzow, local hooligans displayed a banner with a slogan used by the SS during World War II: ‘Our honour is loyalty’ (originaly in German: ‘Meine Ehre heißt Treue’).
WARSZAWA. On 30 September 2021, before the Europa League match Legia Warszawa – Lecester City, fans from Warsaw displayed a huge banner which mocked the gesture of taking a knee by English players in support of Black Lives Matter. The banner included the words: ‘Kneel before his majesty’.
SOSNOWIEC. On 4 March 2022, during the football match between Zaglebie Sosnowiec and GKS Katowice, the local hooligans chanted an anti-Roma slogan inciting violence against the opponents. They chanted: ‘Kill the Gypsy!’.
KIELCE. On 16 July 2022, during the football match between Korona Kielce and Legia Warszawa, local hooligan supporters displayed a racist flag bearing an inscription ‘BHBD’ (an acronym standing for words ‘White honour, white pride’ from the lyrics of a song by a neo-Nazi rock band Konkwista 88: ‘It was a fight to the end for white honour and blood / For white pride, for the Celtic cross’).
TYCHY. On 13 August 2022, during the football match between GKS Tychy and Wisla Krakow, visiting supporters chanted antisemitic slurs at the club from Tychy: ‘F*ck the Jews, mother f*ckers!’
WROCLAW. On 26 February 2023, two days after the anniversary of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, during the football match between Slask Wroclaw and Lech Poznan hooligans of the local club hung up a banner on the fencing around the playing field which displayed a crossed out Ukrainian coat-of-arms. On 1 March, the Ekstraklasa (top division) disciplinary body imposed a fine of 15,000 PLN (3,000 Euro) on Slask.