The 2012 UEFA European Football Championship, the 14th European Championship for national football teams organized by UEFA and hosted by Poland and Ukraine between June 8 and 1 July 2012, got to a rocky start.
Czech Republic defender Theodor Gebre Selassie, who is of both Czech and Ethiopian descent, was the victim of “monkey chants” when his country's defeated Russia after one of the inaugural matches, with the Fare (Football Against Racism in Europe) network confirming the "fleeting" racist abuses against Czech Republic’s lone black player.
UEFA reportedly asked Fare to help appoint expert spotters to report further offensive banners, chants and behavior in stadiums during the rest of the tournament, as it was not the first time that black players were said to have been subjected to monkey chants in Poland (members of the Holland squad were allegedly racially abused during a training session in Krakow).
In the meantime, violence also erupted at the Russia-Czech Republic game when a group of flight attendants were attacked by large group of fans in a walkway, allegedly because one of them denounced some Russian fans who were throwing firecrackers into the field.
UEFA continued trying to do damage control by releasing a statement in which it described the “brief and isolated incident involving a small group” who attacked “a handful of stewards.” They claim the situation was quickly and efficiently brought under control.
I’m sure that’s not what the flight attendants who were reportedly kicked in the head and then brought to the hospital are thinking right now.
The incidents, during which witnesses have reported seeing Russian fans flying Russian Empire flags, highlight the tensions between Russia’s two ex-Soviet neighbors (Ukraine and Poland) as they try to steer away from their former empire’s influence and seek to forge closer ties with Western Europe.