Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Dutch Euro 2012 squad face 'monkey chants' in Poland

By Paul Armstrong and Ben Wyatt, CNN
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Fri June 8, 2012
  • Hundreds of people reportedly targeted black members of Dutch squad
  • Team had been training in a public session ahead of Euro 2012 kickoff
  • Poland and Ukraine co-hosting tournament amid claims of racism among its fans
  • European politicians boycotting games in Ukraine over human rights concerns

(CNN) -- The captain of the Dutch national team says his players were subjected to racial abuse at a training session in the Polish city of Krakow this week, just days before the Euro 2012 football tournament was due to begin in Poland and Ukraine.

Several hundred people out of a crowd of 23,000 reportedly targeted black members of the squad with "monkey chants" during an open session Wednesday at the Stadion Miejski, the home of Wisla Krakow.

"It is a real disgrace especially after getting back from Auschwitz (the Dutch squad had visited the concentration camp on Wednesday) that you are confronted with this," Netherlands skipper Mark Van Bommel told a press conference late Thursday.

"We will take it up with UEFA and if it happens at a match we will talk to the referee and ask him to take us off the field."

Euro 2012 hosts hit back at racism accusations

Former Polish striker condemns racism
Ruud Gullit: Euros will confront racism
Euro racists face criminal sanctions

When questioned over the incident by Dutch journalists who claimed they did not hear the abuse, Van Bommel replied: "You need to open your ears. If you did hear it, and don't want to hear it, that is even worse," according to ESPN.

The Netherlands are due to hold a news conference at 1715 GMT Friday in Poland followed by another training session in front of fans, according to UEFA's official website.

"UEFA has now been made aware that there were some isolated incidents of racist chanting that occurred at the open training session of the Dutch team in Krakow. UEFA has not yet received any formal complaint from the KNVB (Dutch football association)," read a UEFA statement.

"Should such behavior happen at further training sessions, UEFA would evaluate the operational measures to be taken to protect the players.

Blog: Racism overshadows buildup to Euro 2012

"UEFA has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to discriminatory behavior and has given the power to referees to stop matches in case of any repeated racist behavior."

The KNVB released a statement Friday confirming it would not be making a complaint to UEFA.

"As at one moment there was a lot of noise coming from a specific stand, the team decided to train at the other side of the stadium, which was much quieter," the Dutch ruling body said of the incident on Wednesday.

Platini: Officials to act against racism
CNN Special: 'It's Not Black & White'
Football pioneer on racist abuse

"A few players have heard sounds, which could be described as possible monkey chants. However, the training staff on the pitch were not aware of this. Although KNVB will not make an official complaint to UEFA, they are more than willing to answer questions of UEFA in this respect."

Poland's Sport and Tourism Minister told CNN that the incident was not racist, but involved a small hooligan element.

"As far as I know this is a very small hooliganism incident, not a racist one," Joanna Mucha said Friday.

"You can be sure that it is very marginal in Poland, you've got hooliganism all over the world in sporting arenas. It will not happen again -- if it does we will react appropriately."

Mucha said football supporters should not be afraid to come to Poland for the tournament.

"My message is you will be safe and you will feel safe in Poland. There is a huge security operation and we will manage to do it, to make you safe," she said.

CNN Special: Racism - It's not black and white

The buildup to the football showpiece, which kicks off in Warsaw on Friday, 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 England team is scheduled to train in front of 3,500 fans at the same stadium in Krakow on Friday.

Long road to the Euro 2012 cup
Porto's fine after its fans made monkey chants at Manchester City's Mario Balotelli and Yaya Toure was less than the English club's punishment for being late on the field in another match. Porto's fine after its fans made monkey chants at Manchester City's Mario Balotelli and Yaya Toure was less than the English club's punishment for being late on the field in another match.
Proper punishment?
UEFA\'s fight against racism UEFA's fight against racism
Liverpool striker Luis Suarez was handed an eight-match ban by the English Football Association for racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra in a match in October 2011. Suarez refused to shake Evra's hand during the customary pre-match ritual ahead of the teams' clash on February 12 this year. The Uruguayan has since apologized for his snub of the France defender. Liverpool striker Luis Suarez was handed an eight-match ban by the English Football Association for racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra in a match in October 2011. Suarez refused to shake Evra's hand during the customary pre-match ritual ahead of the teams' clash on February 12 this year. The Uruguayan has since apologized for his snub of the France defender.
Suarez hit with eight-game ban
Racism incidents in football Racism incidents in football

UEFA president Michel Platini says players must not take matters into their own hands, and that any player that walks off the pitch will be cautioned.

Referees will deal with racists

"It is a referee's job to stop the match and he is to do so if there are any problems of this kind. I count on the fans from Western and Eastern Europe to come to participate in a great football feast. If I am here as a UEFA chairman and you all are here it is because we want this to be a football feast, not a problem," he told reporters Thursday.

A recent documentary from the BBC featured right-wing supporters from both Poland and Ukraine displaying racist and anti-Semitic attitudes. The "Panorama" episode broadcast footage filmed at matches in both countries that purported to show fans displaying Nazi salutes in the stands and aiming monkey chants at black players. This prompted former England footballer Sol Campbell to warn fans not to travel to either country.

However, officials from the co-hosts hit out at the program. Marcin Bosacki, a Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman, told CNN it was "cheap journalism," while Volodymyr Khandogiy, Ukraine's ambassador to Britain, said it was "unbalanced and biased reporting about the situation in Ukraine."

But Piara Power, executive director of the Football Against Racism in Europe organization, said there was still plenty of work to be done in both countries.

"I think we know the situation in domestic football in both Poland and Ukraine and I'm afraid the documentary hit the nail on the head -- it's a very bad situation," he said.

"Nevertheless there is some good work going at grass roots level to make sure that Euro 2012 inside stadiums does not resemble the sort of scenes we saw in the documentary."

Will racism overshadow football?
Who will win Euro 2012?
Can Spain win without Villa and Puyol?

Aside from allegations of racism, the choice of Poland and Ukraine as hosts of UEFA's European international football competition -- an event which UEFA says will see 1.4 million fans travel to the region and a further 150 million television viewers tune in worldwide -- has drawn criticism from lawmakers of many EU nations, with some refusing to attend the tournament.

Concerns have arisen over the treatment of former Ukrainian prime minister and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, who was jailed for seven years in October 2011 for abuse of office.

Tymoshenko, who was a leading figure in the 2004 Orange Revolution and had been on a 20-day hunger strike until last week, argues she has been victim of mistreatment and politically-motivated imprisonment driven by current president Viktor Yanukovych.

The Ukrainian prime minister, Mykola Azarov, denied the claims in an interview with CNN on Thursday.

"This is a mistake made by some politicians when they express their opinion without digging into the case. No one accuses Tymoshenko of her political decisions. Tymoshenko is accused of a concrete crime," Azarov said.

"There was no government decision which she is referring to when she signed an unfavorable gas contract for Ukraine. She falsified that government decision which means she committed the fraud. So it's not a political decision."

The situation prompted the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office to announce they would be effectively boycotting the event: "No ministers will be attending group games at Euro 2012.

"We are keeping attendance at later stages of the tournament under review in the light of Ministers' busy schedules ahead of the Olympics and widespread concerns about selective justice and the rule of law in Ukraine," their statement read.

Foreign Secretary William Hague went further in an interview with the BBC, saying the UK government did not want its backing of the England football team to be interpreted as "giving political support to some things which have been happening in Ukraine which we don't agree with."

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs told CNN the government will be meeting later Friday with the prime minister to discuss attendance by the nation's lawmakers at the tournament, while a German government spokesman confirmed that chancellor Angela Merkel would not be attending any of the first-round matches due to her time schedule.

Austria's Council of Ministers decided on May 2 to boycott all games held in Ukraine as a sign of solidarity with Tymoshenko.

Part of complete coverage on
updated 6:26 PM EDT, Fri June 29, 2012
Sunday's Euro 2012 final in Kiev pits holders Spain against Italy, between them the winners of the last two World Cups.
updated 10:26 AM EDT, Thu August 22, 2013
Euro 2012: Images from 13th European Championships being held in Poland and Ukraine.
updated 10:47 AM EDT, Fri June 29, 2012
Can English football reinvent its "warrior" style to emulate the success of freeflowing football nations such as Spain and Germany?
updated 8:02 AM EDT, Fri June 22, 2012
Germany Greece
The Germany-Greece quarterfinal at Euro 2012 is just one example of when political and sporting lines become blurred.
updated 12:01 PM EDT, Wed June 20, 2012
CNN's panel of football experts look at the Euro 2012 contenders ahead of the quarterfinal stage.
With Euro 2012's group stage now over, CNN's Pedro Pinto picks out his highlights of the action in Poland and Ukraine.
updated 12:19 PM EDT, Tue June 19, 2012
Nicklas Bendtner could be in trouble for his choice of underwear.
UEFA's decision to fine Nicklas Bendtner for revealing a sponsor's name on his underpants during Euro 2012 may have opened a can of worms.
CNN's Alex Thomas wonders how such an exciting football team as Spain could become, as heretical as it may seem to say... boring.
updated 11:43 AM EDT, Thu June 14, 2012
Fighting in the streets of Warsaw during the opening week of Euro 2012 is a stark reminder that football's "disease" has not been cured.
CNN's Amanda Davies argues that footballers are picked for their sporting ability, not because they can do justice to their national song.
updated 9:46 AM EDT, Fri June 8, 2012
Poland kicked off Euro 2012 as one of the underdogs. It is a far cry from the days when the nation was one of the most feared teams in world soccer.
updated 1:59 PM EDT, Thu June 7, 2012
Euro 2012: Guess the tattoos
Euro 2012 is almost upon us and Europe's finest footballers will be marked men -- in more ways than one.
updated 12:32 PM EDT, Thu June 7, 2012
CNN World Sport looks at the challenges that teams and host countries Poland and Ukraine faced to get to the Euro 2012 cup.
updated 11:51 AM EDT, Thu June 7, 2012
As national teams arrive in Poland and Ukraine, will the tournament be a football success or overshadowed by racism?
updated 3:17 PM EDT, Thu June 7, 2012
A picture taken at Donetsk airport on June 6, 2012, shows flags reading Euro 2012 logo two days ahead of the Euro 2012 football championships opening in Warsaw. France will play its first match on June 11 against England.
If the pre-vote predictions had been accurate, football heavyweights Italy would be preparing to host the 2012 European Championship.
CNN's Pedro Pinto predicts who will fly and who will flop at Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine. Have your say here.
updated 1:34 PM EDT, Wed June 6, 2012
Portugal have never won a major tournament at senior level, could this be the year the Euro 2012 underdogs shine?
updated 2:59 PM EDT, Thu June 7, 2012
Some of Europe's best footballers will be missing in Poland and Ukraine this month, as the effects of another grueling season takes its toll.
updated 4:40 PM EDT, Tue June 5, 2012
Can defending European champions Spain retain their title in Poland and Ukraine? CNN's Pedro Pinto reports.
updated 3:02 PM EDT, Thu June 7, 2012
Euro 2012 is nearly here and the 16 competing nations have announced the final 23-man squads.
updated 4:57 AM EDT, Fri June 22, 2012
Check out who is playing who, and where, as 16 teams compete at the European Championship in Poland and Ukraine.
updated 3:20 PM EDT, Thu June 7, 2012
The spotlight is on Ukrainian and Polish fans after a BBC investigation alleged racism was prevalent in the stands
Euro 2012 hosts Ukraine and Poland have told CNN a documentary accusing fans from both nations of racism was "unbalanced and biased."
updated 1:10 PM EDT, Fri May 18, 2012
UEFA president Michel Platini tells CNN he thinks Chancellor Angela Merkel will attend the final of Euro 2012 in Ukraine -- if Germany reach it.
updated 11:10 AM EDT, Tue May 8, 2012
It was supposed to be a symbol of Ukraine's development, but next month's Euro 2012 tournament has become mired in controversy.
updated 11:34 AM EDT, Mon April 30, 2012
Poland and Ukraine will host the European Championships for the first time in 2012, welcoming 14 other teams and football fans from across the continent.
updated 11:52 AM EST, Fri December 9, 2011
The build-up to next year's finals has truly begun, so here is CNN's guide to our top 10 most memorable European Championship moments.
updated 11:55 AM EST, Fri December 9, 2011
With less than 200 days to go until Euro 2012 football fans across Europe can start to look forward to the tournament in Poland and Ukraine.