Wed, Jun 13, 2012 - Page 20 News List

JOHNNY FOREIGNER’S EURO 2012: Raised eyebrows, racism and real science

Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo, left, shows a red card to Greece defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos, top right, in Greece’s Euro 2012 match against Poland at the National Stadium in Warsaw, Poland, on Friday.

Photo: AFP

Please … I just need to sleep … let me sleep … not the jack hammer again … no, no … I can’t take it anymore.

Life as an inmate at Guantanamo Bay?

No, it’s your average fan of the beautiful game watching Euro 2012 in Taiwan.

Yes, it may not be on a single TV channel (so what’s the point of having hundreds of them, I hear you ask, with some justification), but we shall not be put off. Euro 2012 is here and even for us tired old hacks, used to long drinking sessions into the late hours of the morning, the Euro 2012 shift is a toughy, oh yes. Somebody needs to keep us up to date on all things Euro footie, though, and Johnny’s your man.

Yes, I’m back.

So whether you’re at home swearing about that Internet connection that keeps failing when you most need it, or you’re in a taxi on the way home at 5am, still attempting to make yourself understood as you try to remember where you live, this is the place for all things Euro 2012.

So what a start it’s been, we’ve seen all 16 teams after the first round of matches and, let’s be honest, frankly we’re none the wiser as to where the trophy may end up at the end of the month.

Johnny’s favorite moment of the opening round of matches was provided by Greece central defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos, surely the unluckiest man of the tournament so far, whose facial expression was worth its weight in gold when he realized he was being sent off by “chump of the tournament so far” Spanish whistle-blower-in-chief Carlos Velasco Carballo for the heinous crime of winning a header and then being in the vicinity of a Poland player who happened to slip over when he received the ball.

Look at his face, just look at his face...

So while poor old Sokratis sits out the next round of matches, Johnny reaches for the matchbox to prop open the eyes as sleep becomes a distant memory.

So what else of the opening four days of the tournament? Well, the big recurring story has been racist abuse in Poland and Ukraine. The Dutch have complained that some of their players were the subject of abuse at a training session, while a Polish-based anti-racism organization have also said that Russian fans subjected Ethiopian-Czech player Theo Gebre Selassie to racial abuse in Friday’s opening encounter.

So surely it’s time to crack down on this hard? No it’s time for UEFA and the organizers to put their fingers in their ears, close their eyes and go: “La, la, la ,la ,la, ...”

Coach of Euro 2012 co-hosts Ukraine, Oleg Blokhin, waded into the debate on Sunday by insisting that “there is no racism in Ukraine.”

Blokhin interrupted a reporter who asked him about the issue in English, removed his headphones and said: “I don’t want to talk about racism — there is no racism in Ukraine. These are political issues which have nothing to do with football.”

“If there are incidents, they won’t be in Ukraine,” the 1975 European Footballer of the Year insisted.

Really, Oleg?

Surely you’re not the same Oleg Blokhin who was quoted by the New York Times in 2006, on the subject of foreign players in the Ukrainian league, as saying: “The more Ukrainians that play in the national league, the more examples for the young generation — let them learn from Shevchenko or Blokhin, and not some Zumba-Bumba they took off a tree, gave him two bananas and now he plays in the Ukrainian league.”

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