The FARE Action Weeks will hit mid-stride this week as the UEFA Champions League and Europa Cup group matches become the focus for the message of inclusion.
Matches last night in some of Europe’s greatest footballing cities – Amsterdam, Braga, London, Madrid, Marseille, Moscow, Munich and Rome – all featured activities as part of events at the sixteen games in the UEFA Champions League this week (19, 20 October), and twenty-four matches in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday (21 October).
Activities included PA announcements, giant screens that showed a 30-second 'No to Racism' spot; on the pitch the twenty- five mascots and referees escorts at each game lined up wearing United Against Racism T-shirts, as team captains wore blue and yellow Unite armbands.
Fans coming into stadiums received copies of an Action Week publication and were invited to offer their support at the beginning of the game.
Milan approval in Madrid
In Madrid where Jose Mourinho’s Real faced his old rivals Milan, fans were overheard approving the activities as they debated the abuse Cameroon striker Samuel Eto’o received in Sardinia on Sunday.
And in London there was enthusiastic applause for the message before kick-off in the Group H game between Arsenal and Shakhtar Donetsk.
The Action Week features around 1500 initiatives by community groups, fans, clubs, FAs, NGO’s, ethnic minority and youth groups across the continent.
Michel Platini, President of UEFA, offered his support for the initiative:
Respect for Diversity is one of UEFA's key principles. There is no place for any form of racism or discrimination at UEFA or in European football. UEFA is firmly determined to combat this scourge in any form., he said.
I call on everyone to conduct themselves both on and off the pitch in a spirit of fair play and respect towards referees, opponents and fans.
Backdrop of intolerance
The Executive Director of FARE, Piara Powar, commented,
This year’s Action Weeks come against the backdrop of an increased level of rhetoric from both mainstream politicians and the far- right, challenging the value of diversity and a victimisation of groups such as the Roma.
Against this background it is no wonder that football continues to be the setting for high profile incidents of racism and homophobia.
By bringing together all of the European football family united in one cause we hope the FARE activities during October can be something of a counterbalance to hatred and intolerance.