Supporters of England’s Metalist Kharkiv team are being warned against traveling to the Ukraine for the European Soccer Championship, set to kick off June 8, for fears that they risk being attacked by Nazi mobs.
Britain’s Foreign Office’s Euro 2012 travel advice warns: “Those of Asian or Afro-Caribbean descent and individuals from religious minorities should take extra care” this year as they consider whether to attend the highly anticipated championship.
Both England and France have a following of hardcore, dedicated fans known as ‘Ultras’ – a name given to football fans who put on displays of support using homemade banners, flares and chanting. Most notable, however, is their perpetual violence against foreigners.
“This is a country where football fans use the word Jew as an insult. In a match at Krakow, both sets of Ultras are caged like animals in their terraces behind metal fencing,” wrote Chris Rodgers in an article published in The Daily Mail. “The Ultras supporting the team of Wisla are taunting their local rivals calling them Jewish ‘******’ Many wear T-shirts with anti-Semitic slogans.”
Fans can also be seen wearing custom-made T-shirts with the slogans such as ‘National Army Against The Jews’.
In the supporter’s bar, the bartender greets fans with a Nazi salute and customers can see a huge mural of the Celtic cross, often adopted as a symbol of white supremacy, on the wall, the newspaper reported.
Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych has downplayed the security concerns of many Europeans planning to travel to the country for the championship, including a warning by former English soccer captain Sol Campbell who warned fans to “stay at home, watch it on TV. Don’t even risk it… because you could end up coming back in a coffin.”
“We have a list of people who behaved aggressively at football matches. Their numbers are tiny, they are known to us and preventive measures will be taken,” Yanukovych said.
When the Metalist team scores, hundreds of Ultras punch their chests, salute and shout ‘Sieg Heil!’ Of their Nazi ‘Hail Victory’ gesture. Fans, however, insist that ‘It’s just a bit of fun.’
“The police are not helpful at all,” explained a student with a bloodied nose. “They won’t protect us. We have been here for years and we are always attacked but the police do nothing.”