The seventh annual FARE Action Week got underway with a Europe-wide campaign to eradicate the cancer of racism and intolerance from the beautiful game.
Running from 17 to 30 October, the annual show of strength coordinated by the FARE network and implemented with support of UEFA is uniting football fans, clubs and those targeted by racism across the continent in a concerted effort to make discrimination a thing of the past. Having grown massively since its launch in 2001, the FARE Action Week now includes more than 1000 single activities in 37 European countries.
Over the forthcoming two weekends the campaign will boost public awareness of the problem of racism and discrimination and demonstrate a united front in dealing with this malign influence on Europe's number one sport.
Professional Leagues join the fight
A record of 14 European top leagues will dedicate their forthcoming league matches to the fight against racism, including England, Scotland, Cyprus, Macedonia, Malta, Slovenia, Romania and Norway.
In Belgium the “Centre for Equal Opportunities” initiated the campaign “Don’t act like a monkey” where all professional clubs, the Belgian FA, the fan federation and the players union Sporta tackle the problem of racist chanting in stadiums. A TV-spot will be shown during the football broadcasts and 80.000 posters handed out to fans; in addition clubs are to be asked to sign an anti-racism charter.
In Portugal the Players Union SJPF coordinates anti-racist stadium actions across the country. The stars Eusébio, Fernando Gomes and Vítor Baía will act as ambassadors. The Hungarian Players Association will organise a campaign involving all first division clubs. Players will wear anti-racism t-shirts in the warm-up, tannoy announcements will be made and children of ethnic minority background will present a FARE banner at the pre-match line up.
For the first time all 73 professional sides in Germany are taking part in the FARE Action Week, following a series of racist incidences after the World Cup. 750.000 red cards are to be placed on seats so that fans can join the players when they show racism the red card at kick-off. In neighbouring Austria, the Bundesliga will run activities involving all 22 professional clubs. At the line-up team captains will take the microphone to read an anti-racism statement; also a new anti-racism video spot will be aired in all stadiums. Fans will receive a special fanzine produced by the FARE partner FairPlay-vidc.
Following a serious far-right incidence in Serbian football – last week 37 FK Borac fans wearing Ku-Klux-Klan masks abused a Zimbabwean player of the visiting team – the Serbian football association and clubs will intensify their campaigning efforts to drive racism out of the stadiums. In addition to the already scheduled anti-racism match days at Smederevo, OFK Belgrade, Partizan, Red Star, Zemun and Vojvodian, 80.000 FARE leaflets will be distributed to fans.
Rafal Pankowski, speaker of the Polish the FARE partner Never Again Association said:
“Over the last decade some good progress has been made in challenging racism in the game, but by no means has it been eradicated. In several parts of Europe we still regularly witness the overt abuse of black and other minority players at both the professional and grassroots level of the game. Also migrants and ethnic minorities still feel excluded from the existing football structures within associations, clubs and some fan clubs across Europe.”
Grassroots involvement in Eastern Europe
To reinforce the message that football is for all – irrespective of origin, skin-colour or language – FARE supports a wide range of community-based events. In particular human right-groups in non-EU members states in Eastern Europe make use of youth football tournaments to raise awareness and integrate Roma and other ethnic minorities. Such events will take place in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, Georgia, Moldova, Russia and Macedonia.
Celebration of Fan Culture
As the life blood of the anti-racism struggle in football, fan groups across the continent will challenge the most visible racism during the Action Week. Over the weekend eight members of the network “Réseau Supporter de Resistance Antiraciste”, including French clubs Sochaux, Rennes, Metz, Valence, Clermont, Bordeaux, Cannes, plus Liège (Bel) and Lausanne (Sui), will create choreographies, display banners and organise discussions. In the Czech Republic the fan project of champion Slovan Liberec and the Bohemians Prague Ultras are staging colourful fan choreographies during their home ties. Other active fan groups include those of Bröndby, Young Boys Bern, Venice, Ancona, Cadiz, Paris SG, Arsenal, Kiev and Kaiserslautern.
Challenging Homophobia and Sexism
In order to challenge discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender, FARE lends support to a number of initiatives. The gay fan club Hertha JunXX in Berlin will display a banner when Hertha BSC play Borussia Mönchengladbach. The fan initiative of FC Schalke 04 has launched a poster campaign featuring homosexual youth in football kits. The Ultrà female fan clubs Borussen playgirls and Bochum wildcats will display banners when their teams meet in the Bundesliga. In the Macedonian capital Skopije MKD Prokultura is organising the first tournament for girls of ethnic minority background.
The UEFA Champions League fixtures on 17/18 October marked the start of the FARE Action All 32 teams involved in Europe's premier tournament were accompanied onto the field by children wearing t-shirts bearing the slogan 'Unite against Racism'; also all team captains wore anti-racism armbands. 618.000 fans witnessed these symbolic activities live in the 16 stadiums and more than 100 million viewers via TV live coverage.