2016-06-22 / Editorial

Anti-Semitism among soccer fans must not be tolerated

World soccer has a problem with neo-fascism and anti-Semitism.

At a time when far-right groups are gaining followers through Europe, French police are investigating a group of Hungarian soccer fans who were caught on camera performing a coordinated Nazi salute during their team’s recent Euro 2016 match against Iceland in Marseille.

The fans are believed by police to be far-right “ultras,” who are soccer devotees prone to violence, and were wearing identical black shirts with the word “Magyarorszag” (Hungary) in white letters, as they made the Hitler gesture, en mass, in the direction of the competing team.

The incident, said police, “could lead to prosecutions under anti-racism laws, and legislation aimed at combating anti-Semitism.”

Both world soccer and Hungary need to set a strong example as anti-Semitism continues to rear its ugly head. European soccer authorities have been forced to confront expressions of sympathy with fascist movements from players and fans in recent years. Among the high-profile incidents, Giorgos Katidis, a 20-year-old Greek soccer player who celebrated a game-winning goal by giving a Nazi salute to fans in Athens, was banned for life from representing his country in international tournaments.

A few years earlier, extremists among the Italian Lazio fan base, also “ultras,” held aloft banners celebrating the Nazi death camps at Auschwitz and praising the Serbian warlord Arkan, who led bands of armed soccer hooligans from Belgrade into Croatia and Bosnia on rampages of ethnic cleansing in the 1990s.

Clearly, the attitudes of soccer fans are symptomatic of behavior spreading throughout Europe; behavior which much be addressed. s

Return to top