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UN rights office deplores racist incident in build-up to European football match

Photo: OSCE
Photo: OSCE

UN rights office deplores racist incident in build-up to European football match

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has strongly condemned the racist behaviour exhibited by fans of the English football club, Chelsea, during the lead-up to a European match in Paris, France, and urged authorities to “re-energize” their efforts in combatting intolerance.

The incident occurred on Tuesday as the fans were en route via Paris Métro to watch the Champions League tie between Paris Saint-Germain and the London-based football team. They were filmed chanting a chorus that flaunted their racism as they prevented a French citizen of African descent from boarding the train at the Richelieu-Drouot Metro station.

“In recent years we have been engaging in discussions with both FIFA [Fédération Internationale de Football Association] and UEFA [Union of European Football Associations] about exploring ways to enhance the effort to drum racism out of football after numerous examples of racist behaviour by football fans, especially inside stadiums,” the High Commissioner's spokesperson, Rupert Colville, told a press briefing in Geneva earlier today.

“The events in the Richelieu-Drouot Metro station in Paris show that much work remains to be done before racism is truly eradicated from sport, let alone from society at large.”

Mr. Colville acknowledged that as the filmed incident garnered attention through its extensive distribution in the media, condemnation of the fans' behaviour had been widespread and forthcoming. As a result, he added, the UN rights agency welcomed the condemnation by politicians, media and other commentators as well as the decision by French and British authorities to launch an investigation.

Nonetheless, he continued, it remained important to recognize that the racism exhibited at the Richelieu-Drouot Metro station was not an isolated event.

A recently released UN report investigating the roots of racism in sport has, in fact, acknowledged numerous examples of European football-related incidents in which players were racially targeted with monkey calls and had bananas thrown at them, as well as the rising presence of far-right and nationalist groups in stadia across the continent.

“Similar acts of cruel and casual racism take place every single day, all across Europe, without arousing much indignation, because they are not caught on camera,” Mr. Colville said. “It is important to build on the outrage created by this snapshot of the ugly face of racism, to re-energize the effort to combat it in all its forms wherever it occurs.”