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Black footballers consider boycott

Heskey
Heskey complained of racist abuse during a match in Slovakia

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Leading black footballers in Europe are considering boycotting European matches unless more is done to crack down on racist abuse by fans.

England's Emile Heskey and Ashley Cole were subjected to racist abuse during the Euro 2004 qualifying tie in Slovakia at the weekend -- the latest in a string of incidents reported by players already this season.

Kick it Out, a British organisation which fights racism in football, says many black players feel that European football's governing body, UEFA, is not doing enough to tackle the problem.

The group says it is in regular contact with black footballers about what can be done.

Some black players, including French striker Thierry Henry, have already called for a boycott of European matches.

Kick it Out's national co-ordinator, Piara Power, said he believed Saturday's events in Slovakia would be a turning point.

"The problem is endemic in Europe, but Saturday's events have upped the ante" he said.

He said players were now considering a number of options -- including a boycott.

Marcus Bent, a forward for English first division side Ipswich Town, said he was spat at during his side's clash with Yugoslav side Sartid Smederevo in the first round of the UEFA Cup.

Fulham issued a complaint following their clash with Hajduk Split in Croatia on September 19 while Liverpool said their black players had been targeted by Valencia fans on their Champions League visit to Spain in the same week.

Following Arsenal's 4-0 Champions League win at PSV Eindhoven on September 24 French striker Thierry Henry said Dutch fans threw cigarette lighters and coins at him and also shouted racist slurs.

The strongest penalty handed down by UEFA's disciplinary body was a 13,000 fine for the incident at PSV Eindhoven.

However, on Tuesday, UEFA launched an appeal against the fine -- saying it was not tough enough. UEFA has the right to question the decision of the independent body.

The head of Slovakia's football federation, Frantisek Laurinec, has written to his English counterpart Geoffrey Thompson, saying there could be no excuse for the behaviour at Saturday's match against England.

"Naturally we condemn those fans who were responsible for the abuse and the bad atmosphere that surrounded the match," he said.

"I can assure you that it was not typical of Slovakian fans."



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