UEFA 2012 - to boycott or not to boycott  that is the troublesome question. In fact, it is not so much a question as a murky swamp that once you dip your toe in, there seems no easy way out. Here is the problem. Everybody has their own list of who should face a sporting boycott. For me Israel should be high on the list for its arrogant, openly racist, neo-fascist treatment of its Palestinian neighbours. The United States of America and the UK, its willing lap dog, should definitely be on any boycott list for their wholly illegal war in Iraq, not to mention their 12 year collective punishment of the Afghan people in response to the criminal behaviour of a relatively small band of Islamic religious fanatics. And while on the topic of Islamic bigots, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain should be high on the boycott list, given their medieval treatment of women and gays in their barbaric kingdoms.

 

Now that raises the prospect of literally dozens of nations who fit into that self same category of gender and sexual rights abuses. So where do we stop. Do we boycott every country that has less than full equality for women and gay people?

 

Australian must certainly be on the list given its intransigence towards its indigenous population, not to mention its cruel and illegal treatment of asylum seekers. That raises the perennial question of all the other nations that ride roughshod over the rights of their own indigenous peoples. By that criteria, virtually all of the nations in the Americas should come in for close examination.

 

And if Western Europe thinks it's on the moral high ground, it might care to remind itself of its own colonial past and the subsequent misery, suffering and poverty that lingers to this day. Why even as we bound through the 21st century Britain can not bring itself to relinquish its last few direct colonies; the six counties in the north Ireland, Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands.

 

Then there are the environment wreckers, which includes just about every developed and developing nation. Better boycott Brazil for its failure to put a halt to the destruction of its rainforests. Canada must be on the list for it promotion of the highly polluting shale oil extraction. Russia, China, India and Britain must be considered for sanction considering their continued reliance on dirty coal powered generators. And so the list goes on. Pretty soon we would struggle to find even a handful of nations that could be considered fully ethical in all respects. I'm struggling to think of one. So the problem is not so much about Poland or the Ukraine, both of which have well documented problems with racism, particularly in and around football matches, but rather just who could be considered fit for purpose when it comes to the noble ideals of the global governing bodies of sport who themselves are constantly mired in graft and corruption.

 

Let us return to the case of Poland and Ukraine. The racism as portrayed by the Panorama documentary is sickening to be sure. But the same journalists could do an equally damning portrayal of Britain with its St George Cross waving EDL contingent stomping around our town centres. While it is true that racism on our football terraces has diminished considerably since the dark days of the 70's and 80's, make no mistake that the EDL and the BNP are still actively recruiting in and around British football grounds. Anti-semitism is also on the rise in Britain judging by the dramatic rise of reported incidences. And least we forget, John Terry, former England captain, is still in the England Euro squad despite his imminent prosecution for racially abusing a fellow football professional. He who is without sin may cast the first stone. Certainly Spanish football would have some uncomfortable questions to answer.

 

So what to do about Poland and the Ukraine? Panorama was definitely correct in producing this exposure and the BBC was correct, in my opinion, to air the thing. A little late in the day you might say, but better late than never. Were UEFA correct in awarding these two eastern European nations the tournament in the first place? I think they were. By being in the global spotlight it forces these two nations to examine the less wholesome aspects of their society, attitudes that lurk in every nation, and places pressure on the authorities to take some remedial action. Furthermore, it forces the general populous to re-examine its own attitudes to racism and integration when faced with the harsh glare of the global media . A boycott is likely to have the reverse affect, pushing such emerging nations further into there own insular attitudes.

 

The Panorama documentary has also put UEFA in the spotlight forcing it to put some backbone behind their publicly stated policy of zero tolerance to racism and bigotry. If they follow through with their threat of abandoning any match that is plagued with racist chanting then that will be a great step forward for world football. It is long overdue for UEFA and FIFA to get tough on the football racists and right wing bigots. As Europe slides further into the economic mire those dark voices will become louder and louder. Football grounds must not become easy recruiting grounds for fascists. 

 

Is there ever a reason to move to a sporting boycott? The answer must be unequivocally yes. When a nation blatantly refuses to at least pay lip service to civilised norms, as in the case of Apartheid South Africa, then a blanket boycott is required. But for the rest of the world community of nations, it is probably just a case of muddling through the swamp, knowing that every participating nation has a murky past and a highly dubious moral present, and that the alternative of a never-ending series of sporting and cultural boycotts is probably a worse alternative than the existing highly compromised status quo.

 

End JPK Copyright 30/5/12

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Last Updated ( Saturday, 26 May 2018 12:45 )