wtorek, 29 maja 2012

Stadiums of Hate - my opinion

As most have heard, a controversial BBC feature was broadcasted yesterday as part of the 'Panorama' series (a documentary / public affairs programme). It has become a bit of a hot topic in the Polish media, with most commentators being upset by the one-sided view and exaggerations, less in the UK were a lot 'sensational' insights about the hosts of the European Championship was already posted. I decided to share my opinion for the non-poles among my friends (exceptionally, in English).

I will completely ignore the part about Ukraine, since I don't know a thing about their football. Actually, I am very far from being an expert on football in any country (or the sport in general : ), however, I have spend the better (hehe) part of my life in Kraków and I think I'm entitled to an opinion on some of the claims. The main two observations were about racism and brutality of the 'Ultras' (interestingly, in Poland the description 'hooligans' is more common, but it probably wasn't used because of the connotation - it did enter the Polish language from English and, according to Wikipedia [1], was initially used to describe a London street gang). Let me deal with them separately.

As much as I'm ashamed to do that, I admit that Poland might not be as tolerant as the UK (or funnily enough, as it used to be in it's distant past) - yet. This can be partially explained by the isolation during the communist times - non-Caucasian complexion was a bit of a rarity for some time, which surely doesn't help in teaching people about diversity. Also antisemitism can be found in some extreme nationalistic groups, which is rather surprising given the very small size of the Jewish minority in Poland.
I think that the main difference between Western Europe and Poland is visibility. Over time, these extreme ideologies made it occasionally to the 'mainstream' in different parts of Europe (Jean-Marie Le Pen in France, who accused Chirac of being on the payroll of Jewish organizations, Jörg Haider in Austria or Golden Dawn in Greece, just to give some examples). Racist crime might still be happening, but to put thins into perspective: I have found out that in Scotland during 2005-2006 there were almost 20 race-hate crimes per day [2]. There is an ongoing discussion about how to address these issues in Poland, but I think there is good progress already. The historically Jewish district of Kraków, Kazimierz, can serve as an example. Once a neglected and unpopular part of town, it has become the perhaps most vibrant part of Kraków, famous for it's bars and restaurants but also for the annual Jewish Culture Festival.

So maybe that's a problem with the policing of stadiums? There was a time when English Hooligans were the scare of national football competitions. Smart rules and a zero-tolerance policy seem to have solved the problem in the UK, but it did took some years. The advance of technology (CCTV and electronic cards) made it easier to identify offenders and ban them from participating in the games. The same thing is happening in Poland just now. Even before Euro 2012 clubs were made responsible for the behavior of their supporters, and here as well progress has been achieved. I remember that some 10 years ago, when the unemployment was close to 20%, a lot more young people would get involved in hooliganism. With the transition to a [more] developed economy, more and more people have better things to do then sit in prison for a stadium seat they vandalized. Except for some of the most 'competitive' derbies, which the report chose to show, football fans are behaving orderly.

In general, I am not particularly outraged by this documentary. While I find it exaggerated (e.g. battles with riot police or racist shouts are not as common) and would consider it as rather poor journalism, I do agree that as a society we still have some work to do on education and policing. I don't think there is anything to be worried about in terms of the championship, most European countries struggle with similar issues, even if on a smaller scale.
Trying to be a bit fair, the reporter did point out, that the former English Captain John Terry is awaiting his trial for racist remarks and mentioned that this is not just happening in Poland. I would prefer a more factual approach, but that's not what people want to watch these days anyway ; ) I also remember similar materials about the World Championship in South Africa (and their homicide rates)...

And if someone in Poland is really upset about it, maybe they should do a documentary about riots in London and how it's better to watch the Olympics from home, rather then risking injuries in a week long battle with the police over the shooting of an innocent African-Caribbean man.

[1] -  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hooligan
[2] - http://www.scotsman.com/news/scottish-news/top-stories/almost-20-race-hate-crimes-a-day-in-scotland-1-692617

2 komentarze:

Dominika's notebook pisze...

fajnie, że napisałeś. myślę, że kłopot polega na tym, że polska reakcja jest zawsze niewyważona. Powinniśmy zareagować na film, ale nie stwierdzeniem, że jest skandaliczny, ale że 'tak. jest rasizm na stadionie. walczymy z tym, a atakiem imprezy na jak euro sprawiają, że piłka przestaje należeć do hooliganów a zaczyna należeć do fanów .. i staje się bardziej cywilizowana'

EWON pisze...