With Euro 2012 starting in just over a week Panorama's timely expose on racism in football in Poland and Ukraine will certainly have put off a sizeable percentage of England fans pondering whether to make a last minute trip. That is unless they happen to be white supremacist skin heads who will think they have died and gone to Hitler heaven.
UEFA talks a good game claiming a "zero tolerance" policy but in reality despite the high minded rhetoric their weak history of paltry fines and sanctions have failed to change the deep rooted cultural values in some of Europe's less "enlightened" countries.
Reporter Chris Rogers hardly needed to go to Donald Macintyre levels of undercover reporting to expose blatant racism at the stadia. It is unavoidable and at every ground he attended.
In Lodz, the 3rd largest city in Poland, RTS Widzew Ultras have such a propensity for violence that at derby games away fans were banned. This didn't stop the violence kicking off as home supporters just start attacking police instead. Once inside the ground there is repeated anti-semitic chanting and huge banners reading
"Death To The Jewish Whore"
an insult directed and the Jewish founders of the opposition team. There are huge murals in the town declaring the Jews should go to the gas chamber. The authorities don't seem to be in any hurry to cover them up. I can imagine Lodz it is particularly difficult place to get a bagel.
Its not just opposition fans that suffer racist abuse. Widzew fans are so moronic they insult their own players. Rogers interviews two black Widzew players (who really need to sack their agents) Ugo Ukah and Prince Okachi who confirm they are repeatedly subjected to monkey chants during games
"I just try to ignore it as so many people do it"
Rogers sees similar anti-Semitic chanting and white power symbolism occurring in the Krakow stadium where rival supporters are separated by Plexiglas. Instead of attacking each other they lash out at stewards and police. At times it’s easy to forget its 2012 and not 1972.
If you thought Poland was bad in Ukraine things appear to be even worse. In Kiev a whole section of supporters is filmed barracking a couple of black players with monkey chants with small kids in the crowd joining in.
At the Metalist Stadium in Karkiv vast swathes of fans including a good few women shout "Zeig Heil" in unison and raise their arms in a Nazi salute. Rogers puts his concerns to the local police commissioner who flatly denies any claims of racism
"It's not a Nazi salute. They were just pointing in the direction of opposition fans"
It is clear from his laughable denial there is absolutely no appetite from the powers that be to stop this sort of behaviour.
Far right organisations have an insidious grip on Ukrainian society and see the terraces as a fertile recruitment ground. Rogers speaks to a leader of Patriots for Ukraine who is completely open and happy to be on camera explaining how they round up and beat people who they think are immigrants (i.e. any brown people) ready for deportation. They are proud of their work to preserve
"One race, one nation, one Fatherland"
Rogers is also shown secret training camps where masked recruits are taken to the woods and taught how to fight and use weapons. It would probably be a good idea for any black or Asian England fans to brush up on their knife skills just in case as even the UK government advises they should take extra care in the Ukraine due to their volatile brand of racism.
The most shocking scenes occur back at the Metalist stadium. Rogers manages to get into the hardcore section of fans and bang on cue a fight occurs just behind him. Then cameras spot a group of Ultras making a beeline for some Asian supporters in their end who they then proceed to stamp on and punch repeatedly in the face. This all happens in front of police and stewards who do nothing.
Rogers catches up with them as there injuries are tended to and they confirm they are students studying in the Ukraine who thought they would be safe in the family end.
"We were supporting the home team!"
one of them exclaims disbelievingly and confirms
"the police we not helpful at all".
It has all kicked off since the airing of the programme with Sol Campbell's assertations that visiting England fans "will come back in a coffin" with predictably strong rebuttals from event director Markian Lubkivsky who describes Campbell’s comments as "insolent".
Mario Balotelli has wisely managed to calm things down with his measured contribution to the debate
"If someone throws a banana at me in the street, I will go to jail because I will kill them"
I'm sure this will in no way see him targeted in a hail of Fyffes next time he steps on the pitch.
Despite this year’s unfortunate and idiotic blips by Suarez/Terry, in the UK the scenes are so shocking beacuse they are images of a bygone past which we have worked hard to eradicate. Watching these backward countries behave in this manner shows us how far we have come in the last 30 years. But let's not kid ourselves, even in supposedly developed countries with rich footballing histories such as Italy and Spain the spectre of racism is rife and the continuing empty gestures by UEFA will do little to change the status quo.