Racist Chants Overshadow Start of Euro 2012

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Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman. This is "The World". Charges of racism are overshadowing the start of the Euro 2012 soccer tournament today. The tournament is being hosted jointly by Poland and Ukraine. Both nations are under fire from critics around Europe who say racism is rampant among soccer fans there. Even before the tournament got underway, there was an incident where black players representing Holland were taunted with monkey chants during a training session. Journalist Andriy Kulykov hosts a political talk show in Kiev called "Freedom of Speech". Andriy, this is supposed to be a time of celebration for Ukraine and Poland and soccer in general. What's the mood in Kiev right now?

Andriy Kulykov: Well, the mood is rather good. We're expecting that the championship will happen. The major problem for us is how the Ukrainian national team will play and here the forecasts are well, if not gloomy, then far from bright.

Werman: And no one in Kiev is raising concerns about these charges of racism and what could be eventually grow?

Kulykov: Well, many people are concerned about this, but I would call your attention to what you said, "charges of racism". I don't think that they are entirely proven, although yes, I admit that part of the fans here could be classified as racist, but they are a small minority of the entire amount who watch and love football.

Werman: Here's another perspective on this. This is from Dutch former soccer star Ruud Gullit, who is black. He was asked whether the organizers of the tournament were right to choose Poland and Ukraine to host this tournament.

[Clip plays] Ruud Gullit: This is a chance for Poland to do something about it because this is a social problem. It's not a football problem. It's a social problem. And from now on, because the world is watching you, you have a possibility to tackle this. Take this opportunity.

Werman: He's talking about Poland, but the same argument hold true for Ukraine, would you agree?

Kulykov: Yeah, I would agree, but at the same time I say that such social problems happen in not only Ukraine or Poland. I seem to remember that arguably the highest profile incident in the 2011/12 season in England was in a match between Chelsea and the Queens Park Rangers. England captain John Terry was caught on tape allegedly racially abusing Anton Ferdinand. Ain't it so?

Werman: You lived in the United Kingdom, so you know a bit about the hooliganism problems there.

Kulykov: Yeah, I know a bit and I saw for myself how the riot police in Croydon had to disperse some people after the England-Portugal match.

Werman: Now, apparently there's a new rule in effect. Organizers say they've empowered the officials at games to stop the match if there's racist hooliganism in the stands. Do you think fans know about this?

Kulykov: I don't think many fans know about this, but the problem here is there is a problem and it is not limited to football stadiums or sports. But what I'm saying is that, unfortunately, this problem is not confined to Ukraine or Poland. As far as I know, when watching or following events in the European Union, it is our common problem only, for instance, it arose in some countries earlier that in ours, and you, for instance, had more time to deal with it.

Werman: You're Ukrainian, Andriy?

Kulykov: Well, I am.

Werman: Yeah, so that's a pretty honest assessment. Journalist Andriy Kulykov is in Kiev, anxiously waiting for Euro 2012. Andriy, thank you.

Kulykov: Thank you, Marco.