Violence flares on first day of Euro 2012

It didn’t take long for hooligans to make their mark on the Euro 2012 soccer tournament. In fact, violence broke out in one of the stadiums on the event’s opening day after Russia had defeated the Czech Republic 4-1 in Wroclaw, Poland.

Amateur video showed a group of about 30 hooligans, believed to be Russian, attacking four volunteer stewards in the concourse of the Municipal Stadium after the game. The stewards were savagely punched and kicked and had to be hospitalized due to the beating. However, police said none of them were seriously injured and were released from hospital later that night.

Police didn’t make any arrests even though it was captured on video and amazingly called it a small incident. UEFA, the organization responsible for Euro 2012, also dismissed the attack as a minor and isolated incident. It wasn’t minor though and nor was it isolated. There was another brawl between Russian and Ukrainian fans at a UEFA Fan Zone in the Ukrainian city of Lviv and four Russian fans were arrested for starting a bar brawl in Wroclaw.

The Fan Zones are supposed to be areas where supporters can mingle with each other and receive information about the safe areas of the cities and the districts they should stay out of. They were created amid concerns of racial violence during the tournament which is being co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine.

If fans can’t even feel safe in a Fan Zone then there’s obviously something wrong with the security setup. Incredibly, police broke up the brawl at the Fan Zone and just told the hooligans to behave themselves before setting them free to do it all over again.

Euro 2012 got off to a tainted start before the first game even kicked off. The Dutch team was allegedly racially abused while holding an open practice session in the Polish city of Krakow. It was reported that about 500 fans made monkey noises at Holland’s black players.

In addition, defender Theodor Gebre Selassie of the Czech Republic was also reportedly victimized by monkey chants during his team’s game against Russia. A group known as FARE (Football Against Racism in Europe) claimed to have heard racial abuse being hurled at Selassie several times during the contest. Piara Powar, an official of FARE, said a small section of the crowd was responsible for the abuse.

There could be more trouble ahead when Russia takes on Poland on June 12. Russian fans have been given permission to march in the Polish capital of Warsaw that same day to celebrate their national day. Both nations are known for their hooligans and it might not be a pretty sight especially when considering the fraught relationship and often-violent history between the two countries.

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