Agendas

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar April 27, 2016 17:31

Agendas

By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 26th 2012)

Dick Advocaat ducked false racism issue

Just over two weeks ago Euro 2012 was embroiled in its first race row of the competition. Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) had observers at every match and reported that racist abuse, including monkey-chanting had occurred in the opening match at Wrocław’s Municipal Stadium between Russia and the Czech Republic – a match the Russians won convincingly 4-1.

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Russia’s coach Dick Advocaat – he has since left – did his team no favours by refusing to comment on the growing controversy of whether Czech defender Theodor Gebre Selassie had been racially abused or not. Russian supporters angrily denied the allegation, but Advocaat refused to back them up.

I asked him if he heard the alleged abuse of Gebre Selassie and whether the accusations of racism affected his team’s preparations and had denied Russia the credit they deserved after their performance against the Czech Republic. He refused to answer twice. UEFA was still investigating the incident at the time.

Unhelpful

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Racism has no place in society, let alone football, but this alleged incident illustrates what is wrong in the fight against it (see The Phony War to be published shortly). While some media have reported that Gebre Selassie had heard the alleged abuse and didn’t pay much attention to it, that’s not what he told me a day after the match. FARE reported hearing fleeting racist abuse of the only black player during Russia’s 4-1 demolition of the Czech Republic on June 8th.

After the match the Czech coach, Michal Bílek, had nothing but praise for Russia. If Gebre Selassie was monkey-chanted even fleetingly, this was an opportunity to deflect attention away from a bad defeat, but neither the coach nor player made such a claim then or at training the following day. Czech-born Gebre Selassie is the only black player, let alone Ethiopian origins player, in the Czech Republic’s squad.

“It’s okay,” [being at Euro2012] the 25-year-old said, “but of course it would have been better if we win yesterday.” He felt that he had been made welcome in Poland. “Everything is, I think, okay – fine,” he said.

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Misinterpreted

Gebre Selassie came close to breaking his scoring duck for his country in that match, showing great technique as the ball dropped over his shoulder to unleash a fierce right-footed volley from just inside the area, which hit the stanchion. The crowd oohed after the spectacular attempt on goal. He certainly did not react as if he thought he had been monkey-chanted then or a day later.

“It went near the post,” Gebre Selassie said. “I think that we did not play bad, but Russia were very productive. Of course we need to forget that match and now we focus on Greece. We have two games left, so Russians are history for us. We must focus solely on the other games.”

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So what about racism? Gebre Selassie plays for Slovan Liberec. “Of course I have experiences with this,” Gebre Selassie said. “Sure, it’s a problem, but I’m trying to ignore it. What can I do on this?”

Despite several opportunities to complain of being racially abused during the match against Russia, Gebre Selassie never said that he had been. So what are his personal ambitions in football? “First I want to play in the best clubs in Europe,” Gebre Selassie said, “but in which club I cannot really say.”

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Agendas

This alleged incident was widely reported as an instance of racist abuse. I offered the story that in fact it was not to several mainly British media. None were interested – the reporting agenda appeared to be only to cover instances of alleged abuse, even though the real story here, as we were almost alone in reporting, was that there was no incident.

UEFA investigated it and concluded that there were no grounds to act against the Russian Federation. UEFA fined that federation and warned it over the behaviour of its supporters over other issues. The conclusions of UEFA’s investigation over the alleged abuse of Gebre Selassie have been met by a deafening silence. Why?

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar April 27, 2016 17:31