The ugly game
On September 24, 2012, over 30 000 people at the Romanian National Arena, joined by millions on TV,watched the football game Steaua – Rapid Bucharest.
In recent years, almost all games between the two teams have been marred by racist incidents. UEFA has fined Steaua Bucharest for racist incidents in the past but national competitions are under the jurisdiction of the Romanian Professional League (RPL). The RPL is led by a former MP of the extremist party Romania Mare, and he has always dismissed racism against Roma in Romanian stadiums as an innocent display of rivalry among football clubs. While he was a member of Romania Mare, the president of the party, Vadim Tudor, called repeatedly for special working camps for Roma.
The owner of the club, Gigi Becali, a member of the European Parliament, is well known for his racist and xenophobic statements. Prior to the game he stated that he is not afraid the other team would win the game as it is a well-known fact that “they drown just before reaching the shore”.
The phrase derives from a punishment enacted on Roma during the many hundreds of years Roma were slaves of the Romanian aristocrats and the Romanian Orthodox Church. Roma were covered in tar, rolled in feathers, and then thrown into a river. The Romanian aristocrats would watch them drown. It may also related to incidents during the Holocaust, when Romanian officers shot at boats transporting Roma over the river to Transnistria – many Roma drowned before reaching the shore. Many others died of starvation.
This week’s game started with the usual chants “we have always hated and will always hate the Gypsies”. Calls for “die Gypsy” could be heard throughout the game. The justification for the lack of official response to these racist chants in the last years is that the fans of Rapid are nicknamed “the Gypsies” (while Dinamo fans are called “Dogs”).
However, this time, among the many racist banners displayed, there was one with the text “Respect Eugen Grigore.”
Eugen Grigore was a mass murderer who killed 24 Roma in 1970.
During and at the end of the game, Steaua officials incited the fans to racism and yelled racist chants together with fans.
The president of UEFA has called for zero tolerance for Anti-Gypsyism or any other form of racism in the stadiums. It is necessary that leading politicians in Romania, as well as those in charge of Romania football, take a similar stand.
It certainly would do not harm if the European Parliament, the European Commission, and others concerned with human rights did the same.