The racism controversy which has stalked the Euro 2012 championships reached England's own base last night as the captain of the Dutch national side, who are also located here, said his national football association would complain to Uefa about monkey chants directed at players during a training session.
Mark van Bommel was deeply angered by the abuse and it has left the Football Association on alert for any abuse of England's players, who will today appear before at least 350 people in their first public training session – a ticketed event at the stadium of Hutnik FC, in Krakow's Nowa Huta district.
The abuse from a pocket of 500 fans were heard on Wednesday afternoon by the Dutch players during a two-lap warm-up at Wisla Krakow's ground. The chants were more vociferous on the players' second lap, leading Dutch manager Bert van Marwijk, whose players had toured the Auschwitz museum only a few hours before the training session, to take the players and their equipment to the opposite end of the pitch.
Until now, the threat of racism at these championships has been limited to co-host country Ukraine and this development is deeply unwelcome to Poland, whose own national side kick off the tournament against Greece in Warsaw's National Stadium today. Van Bommel said: "It's a real disgrace, especially after getting back from Auschwitz, that we are confronted by this. We will take it up with Uefa and if happens during matches we will talk to the referee and ask to leave the field." When a Dutch journalist said he had not heard the abuse, Van Bommel replied: "You need to open your ears. If you did hear it and you don't want to hear it, it's even worse."
A crowd of 25,000 had gathered at the stadium on Wednesday to see the Dutch, one of the tournament favourites train. A sardonic Van Marwijk said at his post-training press conference: "The advantage is that we now know what we can await. Very attractive."
The Dutch incident came hours after the Uefa president Michel Platini warned that any player who left the field of play in protest over racist abuse from the stands would receive a yellow card – a response to the Italy and Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli last week threatening to walk off the field of play if abused during Italy's games. Platini also confirmed referees had been instructed to halt matches at Euro 2012 if a player was taunted with racist chants.
The Football Association has sought a base in the city centre which will enable the players to come and go from their base – the Stary hotel. England goalkeeper Joe Hart said yesterday that the players had been advised to "get on with it and see how the referee and Uefa deal with it" if they encounter racist abuse during a game. "[Walking off] is not for us to do," he said. "Hopefully the referee and Uefa will take it into their own hands if that problem does occur. We can't take rules into our own hands. If the referee feels it's right for us to walk off then we'll follow him."
The former Arsenal defender Sol Campbell last week told supporters to avoid the tournament because of the threat of racism and violence. Ukraine's Euro 2012 director Markian Lubkivsky said Campbell's remarks were "insolent".Reuse content