What Euro 2012 Preparations?
At least, that’s what the people in Zurich at Uefa, soccer’s European governing body, were asking Ukraine last week with regard to its developmental efforts in relation to the upcoming 2012 European football (soccer) championships to be co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine.
Roughly a week ago, Uefa officials officially warned the Ukraine-Poland organizing committee that they needed to speed up their preparation efforts for the games. While the officials did mention recent political change in both countries as being a factor in hampering efforts, they nonetheless let it be known that significant progress had yet to be made on either side of the border and that unless something is done quickly the countries could put themselves at risk of losing the right to co-host the event.
Well, the prospect of losing the right to host the tournament should come as no surprise to anyone who’s followed the corrupt and terribly archaic thinking that goes on in Ukrainian and, to a lesser extent, in Polish football circles. The powers that be just aren’t capable of organizing for any purpose except to avoid legal scrutiny. There are, however, plenty of suitors waiting in the wings, football nations ready to snatch the chance to host the games away from Ukraine and Poland, foremost among them Scotland, which in recent days has tabled a bid to take the reins in the event that Ukraine and Poland falter. And it’s not an unlikely scenario, either.
Racial harmony, but not quite
Reading in What’s On this week about another recent spat of ethnically motivated violence in Kiev – including murder – it pains me to admit that Ukraine and Ukrainians have a deeply entrenched problem with racism. Whether it’s attacks on one of the growing number of black West Africans in the city, a racial slur against someone from the Indian subcontinent or talk among colleagues that Ukraine “needs to get rid of all the Chinese people around here”, it’s there and it’s not going away anytime soon.
But while ex-pat media such as What’s On have done lots to highlight the problem, the even bigger problem is that Ukrainian media have been completely silent on this issue. What’s On is right to demand that the government look into these matters much more seriously – especially in light of the growing number of foreigners coming to the country for work or for holiday – but efforts to bring this problem to light really need to start among local citizens themselves, and the media have a large part to play in how they react to this issue. Someone has to champion the cause, perhaps one of the city’s many foreign-born footballers, since it can’t always be big government shoving its ideas down people’s throats.
As much as Ukrainians look to their government for just about everything these days (free money, inflation relief, jobs, etc.), they can’t be expected to just toe the official line on this policy; they need to do some thinking for themselves and wake up to the real danger that racism poses to a society still struggling with the concept of nationhood. Does ‘nation’ only mean those with white skin or everyone who has settled here, ready to make sacrifices in order to start a new life here? I hope Ukrainians of all colors find an answer to this question soon.