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The latest wave of racism in stadiums is particularly strong in Eastern Europe. Earlier this season, Slovakia was punished after the monkey chant was heard in Bratislava during a match with England's national team.
''Europe has become a more fluid place, with the ethnic communities producing a flow of top-class players,'' said Michael Lee, director of communications and public affairs for the Union of European Football Associations, known as UEFA. In particular, Lee cited the influx of African players going to Eastern Europe to make a living.
The irony is that England, which did not field its first black player on the national team until Viv Anderson in 1978, is now seen as a leader in racial integration on the field.
''Teams from England and France are seen in most parts of Europe as miscegenated mobs,'' Lincoln Allison, a professor of sports studies at the University of Warwick, in central England, said.
This new image is quite a turnaround for England, whose legions of pale, scantily clothed, beered-up fans are still a noisy presence at international games. The much smaller number of purposefully violent hooligans are still highly dangerous.
With luxury-box prices setting a new tone, England is now reaping a more genteel generation of soccer fans, after a decade of effort toward lowering the racial taunts of the 70's and 80's.
''The first generation of black players received terrible treatment, but there are a lot more black players now,'' Lee said, adding that ''right-wing racist groups have been opposed as part of a wider social movement.''
To combat racism, the European soccer union will hold a conference on March 5 at Chelsea's Stamford Bridge stadium, the scene of many an epic game and ugly racial gestures, too.
''We want to make the point that the minorities may not be the same in all 52 UEFA, nations, but there is a European dimension to this,'' said Mark Sudbury of the English Football Association.
Jolt for Visiting Americans
Americans playing in Europe are particularly aware of the racial tinge in the stands and streets. The United States, while having its own racial problems, has produced half a century of sporting icons like Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan, as well as black managers and coaches. Racist chants are rarely heard from American stands as they are all over Europe.
''Sure, you hear the monkey chants,'' said Tony Sanneh, 31, an American national team mainstay whose father emigrated from Gambia. Sanneh is currently on the injured list for Nuremberg in Germany.
''Fans are very quick to boo you if you make one bad pass,'' said Sanneh, referring to how black players are special targets. ''You're a foreigner, you're taking somebody's job.''
A blatant example of prejudiced chants came last October when England played Slovakia in a qualifying round for the 2004 European championships. A portion of the home fans chanted ''oooh-oooh-oooh'' at two black English players, Emile Heskey and Ashley Cole.
''When I went to pick the ball up a couple of times, even the stretcher staff were making monkey chants,'' said Cole, who plays for Arsenal of London.
Heskey, who plays for Liverpool, said: ''We're in the year 2002, and you would think that everyone's minds have changed by now, but it's still the same. It's very sad.''
That rainy night in Bratislava, some traveling English fans tangled with Slovak fans. Later, they insisted they had merely been protesting the monkey chants of some Slovaks, but UEFA did not buy the explanation and fined the English federation a modest amount for the actions of its fans.
Soon after that ugly evening, a Slovak soccer official flew to England to apologize for the chants. After a series of appeals, UEFA barred Slovakia from having fans at its next game against Liechtenstein on April 4, a substantial loss of gate receipts.
Frantisek Laurinec, the president of the Slovak Football Association, recently discussed the incident in a nation that became independent in 1993 after the breakup of Czechoslovakia.
''There are almost no people of black color in Slovakia,'' Laurinec, a lawyer, said in a telephone interview. ''There are three or four black players in our league. It is not usual for people to have contact with black people.
''But I must add that the whistling and monkey noises are used in Great Britain if a player is not playing fair. It is also a chant we use in ice hockey in our country, particularly on the power play.'' (Other Slovaks have said the same thing.)
Whatever the reason for the chants, the Slovak federation says it will do better in the future.
''We will create a new system of penalties in our first division,'' Laurinec said, adding: ''There will be more black players in the future. But it is not just race. It is intolerance. Sometimes you hear things about Jews and Czechs.
''We must also calculate the situation in society,'' he added. ''Our economy is where the English economy was 20 years ago. People are not happy. There is unemployment. This provides a platform for hooligans.''
Soccer officials quickly insist there is nothing inherent in the game itself that breeds hooliganism. They insist that bad behavior and ancient hatreds are revived under cover of the world's most popular sport. Hooliganism and racism know no borders. In just a quick sampling:
Spain: Monkey noises and insults are common. Kasey Keller, an American goalkeeper with Tottenham of London, who played several years with Rayo Vallecano in Spain, said: ''You have to understand that political correctness is much lower in Spain. I'm not saying it's right, but people yell things there that you wouldn't in England or the States.''
Italy: Lazio of Rome has a history of racist gestures by the fans. And when Francesco Totti, a star of the rival, A.S. Roma, joined a campaign against racism, hard-core fans waved a banner that said, ''Totti, for you no, for us yes.'' Two years ago in Treviso, players painted their faces black after fans had demonstrated against the presence of an African player. Verona fans intimidated club management from pursuing black players.
Austria: When Maccabi Haifa met Sturm Graz in a European tournament, the Champions League, the Israeli team was heckled with swastikas and chants of ''Sieg Heil.''
The Netherlands: Last September, PSV Eindhoven was fined after some supporters leveled racist abuse and threw objects at Arsenal's ace scorer, Thierry Henry, a black Frenchman. It was a curious reaction because the Netherlands has produced some of the great European black players, most of whom had roots in Suriname, a former Dutch colony in South America.
Poland: At a recent game against Latvia, some fans displayed the Celtic cross, a symbol of the far right.
Scotland: The ancient rivalry between Protestant Rangers and Roman Catholic Celtic regularly brings elemental religious hatred to the streets and pubs and grandstands of Glasgow.
Counterattacks on Racism
There are organized responses to prejudice. In Bologna, a group called Progetto Ultra monitors hard-core Italian fans who call themselves ''ultras.'' A group called Football Against Racism in Europe based in Vienna, monitors Eastern Europe in particular.
In England, the British government, the national Football Association and the players association finance a group called Kick It Out.
''In the late 70's and 80's, it was common for neo-Nazi groups like National Front and the British National Party to recruit and leaflet outside stadiums,'' said Piara Power, the leader of Kick It Out.
''It was a chance to get across their ideology of hate,'' Power said. ''It echoed what was going on inside the stadiums.''
In recent years, English fans have adopted the song ''No Surrender to the I.R.A.,'' which is associated with the National Front.
Kick It Out has tried to influence clubs to expect a higher level of behavior and to reach out to the community around its stadiums.
''Football is kind of tribal, you could say,'' said Batson of West Bromwich Albion. ''Allegiances are built. Traditionally, the father took the son, now the daughter, to a match. Now the tickets are expensive and people watch Manchester United on television. The players have celebrity status, like rock 'n' rollers.
''Traditionally, the football grounds were not seen as inviting places,'' Batson added. ''Football's got a lot to do to encourage blacks and Asians.''
Until recently, Batson worked with the players association, which has threatened walkouts unless racism abated in the stadiums of Europe. Last summer Batson became the general manager at his old club, which maintains a learning center where children are welcome to do homework and take in the soccer atmosphere.
Another club, West Ham, in the East End of London, runs a soccer and education program for neighborhood children, many of them Muslims from Pakistan and Bangladesh. The community recently protested when West Ham hired Lee Bowyer, a midfielder who grew up in the area and has a history of racist charges against him.
Everybody agrees that England has toned down the ugliness in the stadiums. Keller, the American, was indoctrinated at rabid Millwall, where fans invaded the field regularly and yelled things Keller had never heard in a stadium.
''I went home to Portland after our season and was watching the Blazers and the Bulls,'' Keller said, referring to the National Basketball Association finals in 1992. ''I could only imagine what it would be like to hear fans chanting stuff at Michael Jordan, but you know it would never happen in the States.''
Keller now plays for Tottenham, which has a large Jewish following. Two decades ago, some English fans would make a hissing sound, simulating gas chambers, at the Tottenham fans. These days, opposing fans merely chant ''Yiddos! Yiddos!'' This is known as progress.
At Chelsea's Stamford Bridge, fans still make occasional racial chants at nonwhite opposing players or even at stewards and police officers. There is one section favored by a group called Combat 18, who wear Nazi paraphernalia. But even the Chelsea crowd has calmed down, said Ben Chapman, a young fan who cannot afford the tickets, which now begin at $25 and escalate sharply.
Bright Spots in the Gloom
The clubs now court corporate trade, provide family sections where smoking and drinking are not allowed, install tolerable bathrooms and use some of the profits for better security to enforce the behavior codes printed on many tickets. After several disasters in stadiums, clubs replaced the standing-room terraces with seats, to avoid murderous crushes.
This kinder, gentler face of English soccer was apparent on a recent foray to Arsenal's quaint red Highbury Stadium, mockingly called the Library by rival fans because of its reputation for civility. Admittedly, the crowd was in a good mood for a sure victory over minor-league Farnborough in a cup match. There were few nonwhite faces in the stands, which soccer officials would like to reverse.
Before the game, the leading career goal scorer for Arsenal was introduced -- Ian Wright, now a television commentator.
Wright, who is black, waved and bowed to all four sides of the stadium, greeted by roars of welcome. He was at home, the way retired nonwhite stars have been welcomed home by American fans for decades.
Arsenal started five nonwhite players, while resting several other black stars. Despite the stereotypes, England is setting an example for mainland Europe in confronting some of the old soccer demons.Continue reading the main story