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Barca hosts anti-racism conference

Ronaldinho and Eto'o are taunted with monkey noises at Spanish league matches.
By Associated Press | None, Madrid
PUBLISHED ON JAN 31, 2006 06:43 PM IST

FC Barcelona stars Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto'o are taunted with monkey noises at Spanish matches. AS Roma fans display banners with neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic slogans. Gypsies are targeted by Romanian supporters.

Racism is still alive in European soccer.

UEFA will aim to tackle the problem on Wednesday when it holds its second "Unite Against Racism" conference at Barcelona's Camp Nou stadium.

In a pre-conference message, UEFA president Lennart Johansson called racism a "scourge" and "one of the most abject forms of disrespect towards fellow human beings."

"It has no place in our society and even less so in team sports like football, where all members of the team are as equally important when it comes to achieving the desired result," he added. UEFA wants European leagues to have anti-racism sanctions by next season and is threatening to exclude clubs guilty of sustained racism from its competitions.

Meanwhile, FIFA's legal experts will decide later this month what measures need to be taken to strengthen the world governing body's anti-racism laws, possibly including relegation, suspension or expulsion.

Organized in conjunction with the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) network and Spain's soccer federation, the international gathering provides a chance "to map out the quickest route to a game free of racism and discrimination," FARE spokesman Piara Powar said.

Among an expected 200 participants are delegates from UEFA's 52 member associations, players, representatives of European clubs, members of FARE and European representatives of political institutions.

The first conference was held nearly three years ago at Chelsea's Stamford Bridge and led to a 10-point code of conduct for clubs. However, some countries have seen the problem persist. The worst case in Spain occurred in November 2004 when thousands of fans taunted England's black players with monkey noises during a friendly at Real Madrid's stadium.

Spain coach Luis Aragones was blamed for provoking the trouble with a racist comment about Arsenal striker Thierry Henry a month before the game.

Italian soccer stadiums are also tough places for nonwhite players.

The taunting was too much for Messina's Ivorian defender Marc Andre Zoro, who threatened to walk off the field in November when fans of visiting Inter Milan insulted him.

And in Hungary last month, the country's federation fined Upjest FC after fans chanted anti-Semitic slurs during a league match. "Racism is one of the visible fault lines of changing European identities," said Powar, who is also director of the British anti-racism group Kick It Out. "It is evident in all areas of popular culture. As a mass spectator sport with enormous amounts of media coverage, it will be reflected in football. Some administrators in the game are in denial, or are paying lip service, or do not understand what action to take," he added.

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