Fans across the globe are ready to enjoy football's beauty and excitement at UEFA EURO 2012 – and UEFA and its partner in the campaign against racism, FARE, are determined that European national-team football's top competition should also be a celebration of diversity.
The UEFA/FARE 'Respect Diversity – Football Unites' programme at UEFA EURO 2012, launched at an event at the Polish Foreign Ministry in Warsaw, includes monitoring at matches, anti-discrimination messages at every game, a joint protocol on the reporting of incidents, a commitment to take disciplinary sanctions and a campaign focus at the semi-finals that will include diversity messages from team captains.
Speakers at the event were UEFA Executive Committee member and the chairman of UEFA's Fair Play and Social Responsibility Committee, Peter Gilliéron, Poland's deputy foreign affairs minister Beata Stelmach, deputy sports minister Jacek Foks, minister for equality Agnieszka Kozłowska-Rajewicz, Rafał Pankowski from the Warsaw-based Never Again association and coordinator of the FARE programme for UEFA EURO 2012, and Wilfried Lemke, the United Nations Secretary General's special adviser on sport for development and peace. All expressed the hope that UEFA EURO 2012 would promote positive values, and would be free of the negative phenomena of racism and intolerance.
"We are here to celebrate diversity: diversity in football and diversity in society," Mr Gilliéron told the audience. "For the past decade, under the leadership of UEFA and our friends at FARE, football has been striving to better itself and to contribute to a betterment of society by fostering tolerance and respect."
The FARE activities in Poland and Ukraine follow unstinting work over three years which have centred on education and engagement. FARE's operations at UEFA EURO 2012 include, among other things, international monitors at the matches. The monitors will note racist chanting, displays of far-right banners or signs and other examples of overt discriminatory actions.
At the event in Warsaw, several renowned ex-footballers – Ruud Gullit, Paul Elliot, Dariusz Dziekanowski, Emmanuel Olisadebe, Garth Crooks and, representing the players' union FIFPro, Tony Higgins – came together in a panel discussion to recall their own experiences and spread the joint message that racism can have no place in the game.
"Diversity is a glorious word because it encompasses everything that is positive about life itself," said Mr Gilliéron. "Long-neglected biodiversity is now cherished and protected. Human diversity also needs care and protection. By human diversity, we mean all that makes us different, more interesting and richer. Football itself is full of diversity: young and old, male and female, black and white, tall and short, able and disable, heterosexual and homosexual. This is exactly what makes our sport so interesting."
UEFA is also promoting the idea of Respect at UEFA EURO 2012 through a jersey-exchanging initiative featuring several football personalities as campaign ambassadors. By linking Respect with swapping shirts, European football's governing body hopes to make a connection with players and fans alike, encouraging everyone to exchange jerseys as a sign of respect for diversity.
"UEFA EURO 2012 in Poland and Ukraine must serve as a great example of the triumph of football's diversity," Mr Gilliéron reflected. "Respect Diversity is the leitmotif of this extraordinary event, one of the top sports and media events in the world. We must dedicate ourselves to this task: make sure that everyone, everywhere, for the next three weeks is respected and protected."
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