Racist Euro fans belong in cages

Dutch winger Luciano Narsingh heads a ball during practice at Metalist stadium in Kharkiv, Ukraine,...

Dutch winger Luciano Narsingh heads a ball during practice at Metalist stadium in Kharkiv, Ukraine, June 8, 2012. Narsingh and his fellow teammates were the target of racist taunts by fans in Poland earlier this week. (MICHAEL BUHOLZER/Reuters)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:54 PM ET

KHARKIV, UKRAINE - As part of Euro 2012 spectacular opening ceremony Friday, the word RESPECT was spelled out in large black letters by fans holding placards in Warsaw's impressive National Stadium.

Too bad Dutch captain Mark Van Bommel did not get a chance to see it. While the festivities were going on, Van Bommel was an entire country away, holding a press conference in this eastern Ukrainian city in advance of his team's opening match Saturday against Denmark.

Had Van Bommel caught a glimpse of that message in the stands, he probably would have noted just how hypocritical it was.

Because "respect" is something the Dutch were shown very little of earlier this week during a practice session at their headquarters in Poland.

For Van Bommel and his teammates, "lack of respect" was more like it.

Of course, you weren't going to see that phrase spelled out in the stands in Poland's biggest city. That would have been the ultimate rotten egg on the face of UEFA.

But it would have been very fitting.

Imagine how disgusted the Dutch -- especially their handful of black players -- must have felt Wednesday when "monkey chants" allegedly were heard from supporters of Wisla Krakow during an open workout by the Netherlands at the Polish club's stadium. The incident came just hours after the Dutch team had completed a tour of Auschwitz, the despicable World War II concentration camp which is not far from Krakow.

After leading his team to the other end of the pitch away from those chanting idiots, Van Bommel threatened to lead his team into the locker room if similar nonsense occurs during an actual match at Euro 2012.

"It's a real disgrace, especially after getting back from Auschwitz, that you are confronted with this," Van Bommel told reporters in Poland. "We will take it up with UEFA and if it happens during matches we will talk to the referee and ask to leave the field."

What also is a real disgrace is how UEFA and the Dutch Football Association immediately played down the incident, choosing to stick their heads in the sand rather than offer support for the players, who are the victims in this.

A senior UEFA official told AFP on Thursday a small group of protesters had targeted the Dutch team's practice facility but denied the outbursts were racist.

Really? Then what would you call it, sir?

What a joke.

Once the incident became international news Friday, UEFA suddenly was at its spin-doctoring best. Suddenly, UEFA acknowledged that, yes, the Dutch had been targeted with racial slurs.

"Should such behaviour happen at further training sessions, UEFA would evaluate the operational measures to be taken to protect the players," European soccer's governing body said in a statement, opting not to elaborate what such moves might be.

Meanwhile the Dutch bolted out of Poland and arrived Friday in Kharkiv, where they will play all of three of their group games beginning with a clash against the Danes at Medalist Stadium.

Several hours after checking into the team hotel here, Van Bommel held court with the media. Sadly, he spent as much time being asked about the ignorant racists as he was about his team's opponents.

"The whole group heard it," Van Bommel told those of us at the press conference. "We just wanted to get to the other side of the stadium (at the time).

"We just wanted to get out of there."

Racism knows no borders, politically or otherwise, and there are fears similar chants might be heard in Ukraine during the coming three weeks.

Sad.

As for those behind the "monkey chants," perhaps they should be reminded that apes and chimps can be found at zoos.

Which is the perfect place you handful of ignorant people should find yourselves one day.

In cages.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/zeisberger


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