Campbell warns England fans they could die at Euro 2012
More claims of hooliganism, Nazi salutes and attacks on children in Ukraine and Poland
CONCERNS about security at this summer's Euro 2012 football championships have been cranked up by former England defender Sol Campbell, who has urged fans not to travel to the tournament in Poland and Ukraine next month, warning that they "could end up coming home in a coffin".
He made the plea after watching footage of Eastern European hooligans to be broadcast in a BBC Panorama documentary tonight.
The producers said they "witnessed Nazi salutes from the terraces, black players being taunted with monkey chants, rampant anti-Semitism and a vicious assault on a group of Asian students".
It claims that during a game in April as many as 2,000 fans at the Metalist Kharkiv stadium gave their teams a Nazi salute. The fans later told reporters were told they did so because Hitler hated "Jews and blacks". The police tried to claim that the fans were merely "pointing" at each other.
There are more claims of orchestrated violence, this time involving children, in the Financial Times. "A football match for nine-year-olds is usually only of interest to the parents of those involved. Unless, that is, the game is taking place in Poland, where hooligans have in recent months attacked parents and ripped shirts off children for wearing the wrong team colours," says the paper.
"After a February attack, the coach of one junior team told local reporters that 15 'bandits' from the rival Arka Gdynia, some with their faces covered, had attacked his players and their parents for wearing Lechia (Gdansk) team colours."
Despite the scare stories Uefa insists that it is working with both Poland and Ukraine to ensure the safety of the teams and their fans, while the two host countries insist fears of race attacks have been greatly exaggerated.
The FT notes that the fans' behaviour is not that alien. "In many ways Polish and Ukrainian supporters are where their west European counterparts were a decade or two ago - not all that long ago English hooligans would make monkey noises when black players touched the ball," it notes.
But the families of two England players, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, have already announced that they will not be travelling to the tournament because they are concerned about racism.
And it is not just the British media who are concerned. German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle carried a dispatch from Lviv, where Germany will play their opening game of the tournament. "Extremists in Lviv say foreigners aren't really welcome at this summer's European championships," it notes, adding that there were running battles in the streets when Borussia Dortmund visited two years ago.