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Racism in European sport

America takes plenty of flack from the European press, some of it deserved. But when I read that one in five Germans agree with a scribe who claimed that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were orchestrated by the CIA & Israel's Mossad, I feel like hurling, and not in the Irish sense.

Europe has its share of social problems. Racism in sport is one manifestation. This story from The Times was prompted by an incident last weekend, when a black player was booed whenever he touched the ball in a game played in South London. It is not an isolated case. Having followed Arsenal for some time, I've made a mental note of the racist incidents that Arsenal's black players have endured. The Times article puts a sample of them in one place:

The European torrent of abuse

RACISM remains a widespread problem across Europe. Ashley Cole and Emile Heskey were mocked with monkey noises when England played Slovakia in Bratislava in October, 2002. "Even the guys with the stretchers were giving me abuse," Cole said. Slovakia were fined by Uefa and forced to play a game behind closed doors.

In 2000, Uefa banned Sinisa Mihajlovic, the Lazio defender, for two Champions League matches for calling Patrick Vieira a "black monkey." Vieira complained of racial abuse after Arsenal's Champions League game away to Valencia last March, while Thierry Henry said that he was abused and missiles thrown at him during a match in Holland against PSV Eindhoven in 2002. Heskey was abused when Liverpool met Boavista in the Champions League in Portugal.

In April last year, when England played Turkey at Sunderland's Stadium of Light, some fans chanted: "I'd rather be a Paki than a Turk" [note: to the tune of "if you're happy and you know it clap your hands]. Uefa fined the FA £68,000 for violent and racist incidents. A survey for TheGame last August found that four out of ten British fans have witnessed racism at matches in the past two years. For the 2002-03 season the number of arrests for racist chanting increased by 57 per cent: from 47 to 74.

Shocking. The Turks' record is appalling as well. Last night I took a look at the Uefa Cup match between Besiktas, one of Turkey's better teams, and Valencia of Spain. Each time Valencia had the ball, the fans whistled like a pack of locusts. It was ear splitting. That's not sporting, and not entertainment. I quickly switched it off.