In seven days, Euro 2012 kicks off and tens of thousands of fans from all over Europe will travel to Poland and Ukraine. The two countries are hosting this summer’s big tournament. Final preparations are underway and the finishing touches are being put to the 8 stadiums.
But the neighbours have come under the spotlight this week - for all the wrong reasons. A BBC programme showed fans giving Nazi salutes, taunting black players with monkey noises and a group of Asian students being attacked in one of the four Ukrainian cities, which will be hosting group matches.
The former England player Sol Campbell warned ethnic minority fans to stay away because “you could end up coming back in a coffin”.
So, does he have a point or is this all a fuss about nothing?
According to Yan, a Polish football fan who lives in Leicester, ethnic minorities thinking of travelling to Poland have nothing to worry about.
– Yan, Polish football fan living in Leicester
"People of all nationalities will be welcome, it doesn’t matter what colour you are. The majority of people in my country are warm and friendly. If you come, you will be safe and you’ll have a great time"
But in Leicester city centre, Asian football fans have mixed views.
– Asian football fans in Leicester
"There is no way I would go. Police say they can guarantee safety when you’re inside the stadium but what about when you’re outside? There can be no guarantee."
"I wouldn’t be deterred from going. Racism is everywhere. It makes you weary but that wouldn’t stop me travelling to these countries"
"I’d like to go but I wouldn’t feel safe. I think it’s wrong that these countries have been given Euro 2012"
John Williams is a senior lecturer at the University of Leicester and says what we’re experiencing with Poland and Ukraine is nothing new. He remembers the controversy surrounding the World Cup in America in 1994 with people saying the country was too violent and the tournament shouldn’t be held there. A decade later, South Africa faced was also criticised. It became the first African nation to host the World Cup. But it was accused of being ‘lawless, too dangerous and racially divided’.
– John Williams Senior Lecturer at the University of Leicester
“This is a new venture for UEFA opening up new markets in Eastern Europe and it’s partly that unfamiliarity and the anxieties about a major football event are feeding into what we’re seeing at the moment
We need to recognise that local domestic rivalries don’t always feed into national and international matches. The big games are tightly controlled and if I were a Black or Asian supporter I would have concerns, but I would also trust the organisation of this event”
Poland and Ukraine have reacted sharply to claims of racism and mob violence on their terraces. They’ve given assurances that foreign footballers and fans alike would be welcome and safe.