So what about Euro 2012? I think the honest, friendly people of Poland and Ukraine need and deserve to host this tournament. In a way, I share Sol Campbell’s fears given my experiences in Eastern Europe, but I’d disagree that the countries should not have been awarded the tournament. I never experienced racism in Poland but I do feel quite skeptical of those claims made by the Polish and Ukrainian Foreign Ministries that racism is practically non existent in both host nations. Maybe it was a case of xenophobia which lead to our bad encounters in Lodz. Maybe it was just bored hooligans looking for a fight.
I had two bad experiences in Poland but hundreds of positive ones and very happy memories. I would visit Poland again in an instant, although I would take extra care walking around certain districts in the hours of darkness. One of the most disturbing pieces of Panorama’s footage showed anti-Semitic Ukrainian hooligans clad in balaclavas and camouflage, training for combat in isolated woodland. Hopefully the authorities can deal with these problems and incorporate the lessons learned into the planning process for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
The Ukrainian and Polish authorities, along with UEFA, are telling us to expect a quiet and peaceful Euro 2012, but those horrible images of the Indian students attacked in Kharkiv’s Metalist stadium aren’t going away.