A keynote conference in Barcelona on Wednesday brings together major football and political figures to discuss the continuing fight to eliminate racism not only from football, but from society as a whole.
Camp Nou conference
The uniteagainstracism conference at the Camp Nou stadium is being organised by UEFA in co-operation with the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) network and the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) in conjunction with FC Barcelona. Around 200 people, including star players, football personalities, senior Spanish and European representatives of political institutions, and delegates from UEFA's 52 associations have been invited to the event, which follows on from a groundbreaking conference held at Chelsea FC's Stamford Bridge home in spring 2003.
Those invited to address the conference include UEFA Chief Executive Lars-Christer Olsson; Daniella Conti (FARE); former Chelsea defender Paul Elliott, a special adviser to the UK Commission for Racial Equality; representatives from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe; the European Commission; the European Parliament; the Spanish government and the Generalitat de Catalunya; Charlie Brooks from the Stand Up Speak Up campaign; and former Ghanaian international Anthony Baffoe.
Three years on from the successful London gathering, work is continuing apace in the fight against racism, with UEFA, FARE, national bodies and supporters' groups leading a concerted campaign to spread the message that discrimination has no place in sport or society. The organisers want to review the progress made since 2003 and renew their call for action, highlight positive events and examine in particular how Europe's leading clubs and players could contribute to the anti-racism drive. The conference will bring together experts on the issue and focus on good practice from across the continent.
"Racism is unquestionably one of the most abject forms of disrespect towards fellow human beings," said UEFA President Lennart Johansson. "It has no place in our society and even less so in team sports like football, where all members of the team are equally important when it comes to achieving the desired result. UEFA has decided to do everything within its power to rid football of this scourge."
Barcelona will also host the next UEFA-CAF Meridian Cup in spring 2007. Under the football co-operation programme between the continents, a two-legged match will be played between European and African Under-18 all-star sides. The Meridian project is seen as an important way of educating young footballers from different continents to join together in an atmosphere free of racial prejudice or intolerance.
"The skin colour, origin or nationality of footballers can no longer be cause for mockery and taunts from a small handful of individuals who are, unfortunately, responsible for bringing utterly intolerable attitudes into the game and who prevent the vast majority of supporters from enjoying their football," said RFEF president and FIFA and UEFA vice-president Angel María Villar Llona.
FARE spokesman Piara Powar, director of the UK Kick It Out anti-racism organisation, added: "The conference is an important opportunity for us all to map out the quickest route to a game free of racism and discrimination. We are particularly pleased with our relationship with UEFA, which has taken on the role of a proactive governing body." Workshops will discuss the situation in various areas including southern Europe where many countries are changing from nations of emigrants to receiving immigrants, as well as other forms of discrimination against individuals and communities.
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