Vieira warns of Eindhoven racism

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The Independent Online

Patrick Vieira said yesterday that he had never experienced racism in his eight years in the Premiership - but claimed that other leagues throughout Europe had a lot to learn from England.

Patrick Vieira said yesterday that he had never experienced racism in his eight years in the Premiership - but claimed that other leagues throughout Europe had a lot to learn from England.

The Arsenal captain said that he expects to suffer abuse in next month's Champions League tie away to PSV Eindhoven - just as he, and the other black players, endured when the two sides met three years ago. Vieira also fully endorsed the actions of the Dutch referee who halted a league game in the Netherlands at the weekend because of racist chants. "That is the right thing to do if the referee hears abuse," he said.

Vieira, who also captains France, demanded action from Fifa, the football world governing body, unless Luis Aragones, the coach of Spain, "explains himself" fully after calling Thierry Henry "a black shit".

"I don't know why he made those comments," he said. "I think he needs to explain himself to say why and if it is the first time or not. I wasn't there I just heard it from some other players and he needs to explain to the Spanish FA and Fifa."

Vieira said that only then could the appropriate punishment be decided, probably by Fifa, for Aragones who made the comment, which was caught on camera, to Arsenal striker Jose Antonio Reyes. "He [Aragones] does not say these kind of words, knowing that the TV was there, and it's the first time he has said it," Vieira said. "He needs to explain himself to Thierry of course but also why. He's the only one who can explain what is going on in his mind."

Vieira was speaking after an event at Highbury to launch 12 days of activities by the anti-racism campaign, Kick it Out. The campaign renews the call for equality in football and tackle exclusion. "It is quite difficult because we all have sensibilities, we are all human beings," said Vieira, who arrived at Arsenal in 1996. He said his experiences in France and Italy exposed him to racism.

"I have been in England for eight years and I have never received any kind of abuse in this way," he said. "Not from anyone at the club, or the fans or any other teams." However Vieira admitted that friends of his outside football "who work in different jobs have received it". He added: "In Britain, also, you have to face it. But it's fantastic that we fight against it here because in France we don't do it, in different countries we don't do it." Although he has not been abused for the colour of his skin, Vieira has previously claimed he was allegedly abused in 1999 by Neil Ruddock, then of West Ham United, for being French.

Yesterday Vieira recalled a Champions' League match, two years ago, against Valencia. "It was quite difficult," he said. "A lot of hurtful remarks and the fans made noises. You have to put it out of your mind and be stronger than them. We were there just to play football."

Vieira will miss tomorrow night's match in Athens against Panathinaikos through injury but will be fit for the tie next month in Eindhoven. The previous meeting at the Phillips Stadium was engulfed in controversy because of the racist abuse directed at Arsenal's players. "Until we play the game I don't know what will happen," Vieira said. "But if you ask me now - then we expect the same things and that will drive us on to win the game." Vieira said that such incident were "hurtful" but also "makes me stronger".

"When you're on the pitch and you hear some people in the ground making noises you want to show them that you are the best - by scoring goals and playing the way you play," he said.

It helps being at Arsenal. "As a footballer and a human being as well because we have so many different cultures in our dressing room. Talking to Jens [Lehmann], who is German, or to the Brazilians, you learn about other people's culture and that helps you as well."

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