Soccer Champions League

Plenty of Controversy at EURO 2012

Be it minor or major, Europe’s flagship international soccer event has not been without its controversies.

Away from the event Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, former Netherlands striker and tournament columnist for, has come out and attacked Oranje playmaker Wesley Sneijder. He states that “I would drop Wesley Sneijder to accommodate [Robin] Van Persie in a deeper role. He did not perform that well against Denmark and he has not had a terrific year. Sneijder and Van Persie were both disappointing, in fact”.

This seems a bit excessive, particularly as Sneijder appeared to be trying to create more than his midfield colleagues were willing to produce. As the outlet to Van Persie he is necessary. RVP was poor and was used as a wide player. Holland have an arsenal of attacking players, but they look like they are being played out of position. Dropping their best performer on the night to accommodate their worst would be senseless.

However, healthy debate about EURO 2012’s footballing issues is fine. What cannot be abided is unhealthy spreading of hatred.

In an interview with amassed journalists yesterday Italy’s flamboyant trequartista Antonio Cassano was asked to comment on reports from home that a few of the squad were homosexuals. Bluntly he answered, “If I say what I think…I hope there are none. But if there are queers here, that’s their business”.

After a few hours of furor following the reportage of abhorrent homophobic views the Italian press core issued a statement on the player’s behalf where Cassano skirted round his own quotes.

“Homophobia is a sentiment that is not mine. I did not want to offend anyone and I cannot question the sexual freedom of other people. I only said that it is a problem that does not concern me and it is not for me to pass judgment on the choices of others, who are all respected.”

Hugely talented, aggressive and recently recovered from a stroke, Cassano will be forgiven his sins by the Italian fans. Whether he truly feels remorse for such intolerance remains to be seen.

What was plain to see at this tournament, though, was yesterday’s violence before, during and after the 1-1 draw between Poland and Russia.

Footage of running battles and ambush attacks came out last night and suddenly the threat of violence was realized. It must be said that the majority of fans would not have been involved, but that makes such scenes no less scary.

What made this YouTube video provided by England’s Telegraph worse is that the Polish Prime Minister had urged fans of both sides to march together to celebrate the collapse of the Soviet Union. On Russia Day, the 12th of June.

Russia ended up marching ahead, before the Polish contingent of peaceful supporters. What can be seen from footage is that the angry minority of Polish troublemakers took it upon themselves to pick off some of those marching. Some Russians may, of course, have incited some trouble themselves, but what can be proved is that there were skirmishes.

Perhaps things would have been worse in Warsaw if the score line had been different. Thankfully a –frankly magnificent –draw was played out.

It must also be said that although there have been infinitesimal bubbles of hostility here and there, there are unanimous calls that Ukraine has done a splendid job and that the beauty of soccer is the only sight.

Make no mistakes, Poland have done a great job as well, it is just that when hundreds of years of issues come together on Russia’s national day and Poland had the opportunity to lose things got a little out of hand. Their police force has been highly commended during EURO 2012, however, and there were even rumors of officers playing football in the streets with fans.

Let us hope that now we’ve got all that silliness out of the system it is back to soccer… Even if fierce rivals Holland and Germany meet tonight.