The third Unite Against Racism conference has ended in Warsaw with a common determination from all participants to reinforce the battle against discrimination and intolerance in football – and especially for footballers and parents to set an example for younger generations to follow.
Ideas and solutions
UEFA, the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) network and the player's union FIFPro have joined forces with delegates from associations, leagues, clubs, players' and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the media and the world of politics to share ideas, seek solutions and common approaches and take the struggle forward against a phenomenon that sadly continues to exist within football – and society
"Racism is not only a football problem", said Willi Lemke, United Nations Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace and a former long-serving general manager of German club Werder Bremen. "Racism is also a problem of society – of all of us.
"We as parents are role models, it is not only the superstars of football," he added. "Education plays such an important role, we have to set an example for our children. Unfortunately, however, many people don't behave in this manner." Lemke gave an illustration of how positive "fan power" can have a major impact – Bremen supporters' vehement vocal opposition to the conduct of a small group of their club's fans at a recent German domestic match in Bochum. "I used to think that the next match and result was the only important thing," Lemke reflected. "Now I have learned more and I know that it is more important to become friends through football."
Paul Elliott, the former defender who played, among others, for Chelsea FC, Celtic FC and Pisa Calcio, and is now a prominent anti-racism campaigner, also took up the theme of educating the young against discrimination. "We have to conduct ourselves as parents, and I have to influence my children in a right and positive way," he said. "Footballers also have a great role to play because of their fantastic influence on young people, especially when they go to talk at schools, and this must continue."
Call to football family
UEFA adviser to the President, William Gaillard, took the opportunity to call for continued and concerted action against racism by the football family. "We urge football associations and clubs all over Europe to do their share in the fight against racism and discrimination," he said, adding that referees would also be given backing if they wished to take measures against racist behaviour by fans. "In November 2007, our President [Michel Platini] wrote a letter to referee and match officials, emphasising his support for match officials who take drastic measures when they are faced with drastic problems – and such drastic measures could include stopping a game," he said. "Whatever decision [referees] take in a situation when we are faced with racism, the President will back them."
On Tuesday, UEFA General Secretary David Taylor emphasised UEFA's policy of zero tolerance towards acts of racism. "At UEFA we try to be vigilant and on our guard, " he said, "and we're ready to take action where incidents occur." (Click here for more details.) UEFA first vice-president Şenes Erzik echoed the sentiments of all present at the Warsaw gathering in his address on Wednesday. "Tolerance of racism, exclusion, sexism or homophobia is unacceptable," he said. "Skin colour is invisible under a football shirt. Today, UEFA is offering you its support as we continue to make progress together." (Click here for more details.)
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