The Banana Skin

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar May 28, 2016 10:07

The Banana Skin

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

Racist Incident

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After the false positives – the alleged racist abuse of Czech defender Theodor Gebre Selassie and Mario Balotelli against Spain – there was a clear and undeniable racist incident in the match between Croatia and Italy. Balotelli was not only verbally abused, but a banana was thrown at him. Photos of it were shown in various media.

UEFA began an investigation of the incident. Eventually the Croatian Football Federation (CFF) was fined €80,000 for that incident and setting off flares at an earlier match. This was far from the first incident of racism involving Croatian fans and sadly it is unlikely to be the last either, but this incident offered a chance to send a meaningful message against racism. Sadly it was not taken.

Denial

Despite pictures of the banana having been published the Chief Constable of the Wielkopolska Region, Inspector Krzysztof Jarosz was adamant that no such incident had happened. “There have been some incidents [of racism] undoubtedly, but minor incidents, but it did not happen in Poznań”, he said during an exclusive interview with us.

Krzystof Jarosz

“Absolutely not”, he insisted, remaining certain that there had been no banana-throwing incident in Poznań. “There is no such information whatsoever. Polish police and the regional police have received absolutely no information about such an incident, so it should be clearly said that there should not be any manipulation when you report on what is going on”.

Jarosz was determined to maintain the dignity and integrity of his country. There was, however, no suggestion that a Polish fan had thrown it. The culprit was a so-called Croatia supporter. As usual the CFF condemned the incident  – they could do little more for reasons we have covered previously.

“When we talk about Poland as a nation we have absolutely no hostility to any nations, which this image unfortunately shows in another light and minor incidents, which happen prove that these are committed by very poorly educated people”, Jarosz said.

Surprise

After I offered proof that the incident had in fact happened – a report showing the banana and that UEFA had opened an investigation – Jarosz realised not only that the incident had taken place, but that UEFA had not informed him about it.

UEFA subsequently fined the CFF €80,000 for that and a previous incident of throwing flares at an earlier match, but the failure to inform the Chief of Police of the region – the man responsible for policing Euro2012 in Poznań – about it was an extraordinary oversight. In fact, it had dire consequences.

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“We as the police have no report of such an incident”, Jarosz told me. “It hasn’t been registered with us and we have not been given any information about this incident from UEFA. Of course [he would have expected UEFA to inform him of the incident]. If they provide us with this information, we would verify it and proceed with it”.

Dropped the Ball

UEFA’s anti-racism initiatives stood or fell on incidents such as this. What possible reason could there be not to inform the police of such an incident? There would probably have been CCTV footage, which could have identified the perpetrator. As Jarosz said, they would have verified the incident and then proceeded with it if they had been provided with a report of the incident and evidence that UEFA had.

It is actually a criminal offence to incite racial hatred in Poland. The banana offered an opportunity to make a meaningful statement against racism, rather than repeatedly punish a federation with a meaningless fine while the real perpetrators remained at liberty to disgrace Croatian football and the fledgling nation.

Bananagate

Jarosz leaves no room for doubt as to what should have happened if UEFA had not allowed the incident to develop not just into a banana-skin, but into Bananagate. “If anybody reports to us that such incidents had taken place, we would automatically begin an investigation and launch criminal proceedings because it is a crime”, Jarosz told us. “According to the Penal Code in Poland, such behaviour is a crime”.

As with the hooliganism, this breached Polish law and could have been prosecuted there. Why would UEFA not co-operate with Polish police? To be sure this was a question we wanted UEFA to answer and we offered them several opportunities to explain their policies and position. They repeatedly failed to respond. We have to wonder why.

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar May 28, 2016 10:07