Fans and players at all levels of the game have come together to take a defiant stand against racism and discrimination.
The Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) network, UEFA's partner in the campaign to eliminate racism from the game, organised a huge series of events to mark its Action Week. It proved to be a resounding success, with more than a thousand activities happening in 32 European countries, reaching millions with a strong anti-racism message.
This year's Action Week was FARE's most successful in eastern Europe. All Slovakian top-flight teams showed racism the red card. In Romania, several top-flight clubs took a stand under the banner 'United against Discrimination' while Ferencvaros TC of Hungary presented a banner 'Fradi against Racism' at their match against Diosgyor VTK.
Europe's best join in
A highlight of this year’s Action Week came at the UEFA Champions League matches on 18 and 19 October. Europe's top players entered the pitch accompanied by children wearing Unite Against Racism T-shirts, while tannoy announcements and programme features highlighted the campaign. More than half a million fans witnessed the events live in the stadiums, whereas millions more viewed via live on TV.
Massive effort in the UK
Community groups, clubs and campaigners in the United Kingdom staged a staggering 600 events. In an extraordinary feat of co-ordination, all 92 professional clubs in England and Wales, together with all 42 Scottish clubs, joined in the action.
Arsenal FC striker Thierry Henry played his part in the Action Week. Already active as the spearhead behind the 'Stand Up, Speak Up' campaign, Henry met youngsters to discuss his experiences of racism and to offer practical advice. Henry also praised UEFA for its stand against racism, including measures to close parts of stadiums because of fans' conduct.
Meanwhile, hip-hop sensation Ms Dynamite took time out for the cause. She joined Charlton Athletic FC's Shaun Bartlett and former Chelsea FC, Celtic FC and AS Bari defender Paul Elliott on a London boat cruise with 200 lucky youngsters. The trip, as part of Charlton's anti-racism day, gave the children the opportunity to ask the star-studded panel about football and racism, before attending the Premiership match against Fulham FC.
Spanish move forward
In Spain, fan groups from the length and breadth of the country came together in a historic meeting to plan their activities. Twelve different ultra fan groups displayed their 'Ultras antiracista unidos' (Anti-racist ultras united) banner at various Primera and Segunda División games.
Planting the seeds
A significant development this year has been the increase of grassroots-led activities. Schools, community groups and everyday people have taken a stand to make their communities safer and more tolerant for everybody. Particularly encouraging is that many of these new activities have been in countries that typically have not previously had established campaigns.
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