With UEFA EURO 2012 in Poland and Ukraine less than a year away, UEFA, the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) network and the network partner NEVER AGAIN have joined forces at a conference on extremism and racism.
Polish government ministers, European campaigners and former players were also present for the debate at the Polish parliament and Polish foreign ministry. The conference gave all participants an ideal chance to address key issues ahead of next summer's event.
The NEVER AGAIN association runs the UEFA-supported FARE East Europe Monitoring Centre, and delegates said they looked forward to a trouble-free UEFA EURO 2012. "I will pay a lot of attention to the question of fighting racism at sporting events, especially because my country is going to host UEFA EURO 2012," said Poland's justice minister Krzysztof Kwiatkowski. "I believe all of us would like our stadiums to be synonymous with a positive attitude, positive emotions, and not with aggression, racism and xenophobia."
NEVER AGAIN representative Rafał Pankowski emphasised the need to promote positive messages, as well as diversity and tolerance in football and through football. "We are underlining the fundamental values of sport including fair play, positive rivalry, tolerance, respect – that should be very important in any activity in sport," added François Sant'Angelo from the Council of Europe. "Protection against racism and discrimination is a human right which must be secured and must be respected in sport."
UEFA's senior manager for social responsibility Patrick Gasser extended particular thanks to NEVER AGAIN for its work in implementing the three-year FARE Eastern European Development Project, which was launched in 2009/10. He also hailed the activities undertaken by the East Europe Monitoring Centre, as well as NEVER AGAIN's efforts in leading the UEFA EURO 2012 Respect Diversity project.
"The aim is to try to celebrate diversity at UEFA EURO 2012 and have a positive impact on the whole tournament in Poland and Ukraine," said Gasser. "We have just celebrated 'One Year to Go' and are obviously looking forward to the tournament. I would like to finish with a quote from UEFA's President Michel Platini: 'We are all equal with a ball at our feet.'"
"We are very proud of working and cooperating with different networks of organisations. I feel proud that we are working to face the problem of discrimination in sport – I see positive development in the last few years," said Piara Powar, the FARE network executive director. "We can have a dialogue with young open-minded people, as well as with organisations, to bring about social change. Poland and Ukraine have their programmes and it is very important that these are not only for 2012. They will have a great impact on these two countries in the future, many years after the tournament."
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