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Olisadebe: 'Racism in football is barbaric'

By Tom McGowan, CNN
updated 5:20 PM EDT, Sat June 9, 2012
  • Former Poland star Emmanuel Olisadebe condemns racism in football
  • Olisadebe became the first Poland player of African descent in 2000
  • Members of the Dutch squad were subjected to abuse during a training session
  • The Dutch Football Association will not issue a formal complaint

(CNN) -- A former star of the Polish national team has urged UEFA to confront the problem of racism that is threatening to overshadow Euro 2012.

Emmanuel Olisadebe was speaking to CNN following the alleged racist abuse directed at members of the Dutch squad during a training session on Wednesday in Krakow, which the Dutch Football Association have decided not to officially complain to UEFA about.

"I think it's barbaric, it's not right.," said Olisadebe. "Some people feel that European teams should have only white players playing for them, and this is a European competition and it should be only for white people.

Racism dominates Euro 2012 storylines

"This is 2012, we don't live in that kind of world anymore. We have to face this problem. It's a problem so we have to face it now or later and UEFA has decided to face it now and we will face it now."

The buildup to Euro 2012 - co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine - has been marred by a host of reports highlighting incidents of racial violence in the Eastern European nations.

The families of two of England's black players, Arsenal's Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain and Theo Walcott, will not be traveling to Ukraine and Poland, while Italy and Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli says he will walk off the pitch if he is targeted by racists.

The Nigeria-born striker was subjected to abuse when he first arrived at Polish club Polonia Warsaw in 1997, before becoming an icon by helping the team to their first league title in 50 years and spearheading his adopted country's qualification for the 2002 World Cup.

"It was really heavy on me," the 33-year-old Olisadebe. "I'd never experienced something like that in the games where they made these monkey noises and throw bananas at you.

"I also heard this from other black players in other teams, they experienced the same thing. And in Poland it's there, the racism in football, but I think it's everywhere. The same in Poland, the same everywhere else."

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Olisadebe, who scored 11 goals in 25 games for Poland, struggled to deal with the abuse, which included people throwing bananas onto the field of play.

"It's really difficult to explain the feeling but it was depressing," said Olisadebe, who now plays in the Greek top flight for Veria FC.

"The first moment was really depressing. I just had to live with it and I'm still here today. I played for Poland and I don't regret anything. I look at it as part of life."

In 2000, Olisadebe became the first player of African heritage to represent Poland. He revealed how his teammates rallied behind him when he was the focus of racist taunts.

"I had a few bananas thrown at me in one or two games," he explained. "But afterwards my fellow teammates stood behind me and they voiced out that if you throw bananas on Emmanuel you do it everybody and you have to respect.

"They were behind me and after then it never happened again."

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