Euro 2012 is supposed to be exciting and suspenseful and fun, and now it's tainted by extreme and problematic fears about racism and bigotry. If there is one thing that could ruin the 16-nation soccer showdown, it's this.
According to The New York Times' Rob Hughes, non-white players were warned on Monday to keep their relatives away from the tournament "because of the potential for violent racism at stadiums in the host countries, Poland and Ukraine."
The Associated Press (via SportsIllustrated.com) reports that former England captain Sol Campbell told the BBC Panorama documentary, Euro 2012: Stadiums of Hate, that fans should avoid traveling to the host countries "because you could end up coming back in a coffin."
Kiev and Warsaw, however, quickly denied the report's validity in an effort to make sure that all guests know they will be safe, according to the AP.
The BBC documentary was filmed when an undercover reporter went to Poland and Ukraine for a month to get an up-close look at the situation, which is still plagued by bloody violence and racism, according to the Times.
The accusations set off a firestorm of denials coming out of the host countries, insisting that all fans would be welcome and that racism exists in pockets of most European countries, but would pose no real threat to fans during Euro 2012—but once the accusations were released, the denials didn't ring true.
Soccer, more than any other sport, has been known for violent fan catastrophes that have cast a shadow on the entire culture. Take, for example, the deadly brawl that took place in Egypt earlier this year, when at least 74 people were killed and hundreds more were injured.
Or, consider this recent ABC News report which delves into the "theaters of hatred" that the modern pitches have become, where white players call their opponents "black monkeys" and fans boo when black players touch the ball.
Racism in soccer is nothing new, and it's no less of a problem, no matter how much the hosts of Euro 2012 want to deny it. It's just a shame that yet another event that could've been great for the sport has fallen victim to it, before it even begins.