Racism, anti-Semitism, human rights violations: Time for another major soccer tournament

In England, a BBC documentary lavished much attention on racist attitudes prevalent in Poland and Ukraine (which is co-hosting the championships and will stage the final in Kiev). Even before this exposé, the families of two black English players said they would not risk traveling to Eastern Europe, while the former England defender Sol Campbell (who is black) warned that any black English fans traveling to the tournament risked “coming back in a coffin.”

Meanwhile, Italy’s star striker, Mario Balotelli, who has been the subject of much racial abuse during his career in Italy and England, said he’d walk off the pitch and return home if he is met with a barrage of bananas or monkey-noise chants or any other favorite melodies drawn from the racist football supporters’ repertoire…

Alas, this tournament’s troubles do not end with Poles and Ukrainians being patronized by smug Western Europeans. On Thursday the British government confirmed it would not be represented in any official capacity at any of England’s games being played in Ukraine. The Foreign Office cited “widespread concerns” about “selective justice and the rule of law in Ukraine.” In particular, London objects to the continued imprisonment—and alleged maltreatment—of opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, who was jailed for seven years last October following a trial that, her supporters say, was nothing more than an attempt by President Victor Yanukovych to eliminate political opposition to his increasingly autocratic regime.

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