Reports of swastikas and Celtic crosses, hooligans training new recruits in forests, and fans beating up all sorts of people of color do not surprise me. They are nothing new.
In fact, according to my contacts in African communities, the situation may have actually improved somewhat in the past year or two. What is new, and refreshing, is the spotlight.
As the Union of European Football Associations intended when they designated Poland and Ukraine as co-hosts of the 2012 competition, this is an opportunity to showcase the relatively newly democratic and independent countries in Eastern Europe, and to bring attention to and increase awareness about their societies. Finally the spotlight has rested on the warts of racism and intolerance as well as price-gauging and folky skepticism regarding Ukrainian “road readiness.”
The dominant voices of the recent flames wars can be summarized in a simple dialogue between Europe and Ukraine.