Thu, May 23 2013
The first national conference against racism in Bulgarian football produced huge debates and some fierce reactions. The organising committee came to the conclusion that the event was very useful in stopping discriminatory actions and taking preventive measures among the new generation. The event was organised in co-operation with UEFA and was the first step in a series of activities designed to raise awareness of the issues and underline football's determination to tackle them.
Bulgarian football clubs, players and fan clubs were represented, as well as the sport's governing bodies, representatives of the police and education. All of them pointed out the determination to fight this problem. Special guests at the event, representing UEFA and FARE network, were Kurt Wachter from Austria and Valeriu Nicolae from Romania.
In his attempt to present the situation and the measures taken in Romania, Mr. Nicolae said Bulgaria had a similar problem in football but also in politics. These words angered the fan clubs which strongly denied Bulgaria had the same level of problem as north of its border.
According to head of the conference organising committee Stefan Ormandjiev, during the past few years there were only rare signs of racist behaviour in Bulgarian football but it is better to take a steps sooner rather than later. Ormandjiev, also vice-president of the Bulgarian Football Union (BFU), acknowledged that the governing body's disciplinary commission had sometimes reacted too softly and made compromises because the clubs and fans were not fully aware and the problem was not typical for Bulgarian society. After this national conference BFU intends to toughen sanctions for racism and discrimination and there will be no more excuses.
"The biggest problem in tackling racism in general is there's no precise definition of what exactly is a racist act," said Ilia Iliev to The Sofia Echo. Iliev is a top Bulgarian anti-violence expert, who has worked for 10 years for the Council of Europe and UEFA's committees on match behaviour. Iliev represented CSKA Sofia at the only disciplinary case against a Bulgarian club for racism. CSKA were fined 19 500 euro after monkey chanting at French striker Djibril Cisse in the home leg of their Champions League qualifying match against Liverpool on August 10, 2005.
"During the hearing a huge debate arose as to whether the monkey chants had to be treated as a racist act. Is it enough to compare someone to animal if you do not specify a colour of his skin? I can't say there is a racism in Bulgaria, I think most of the fans here simply want to annoy and frustrate the opposition, they are trying to annoy the Bulgarian players as well as foreign ones."
Borislav Mihailov, chairman of Bulgarian Football Union, and Stefka Kostadinova, head of Bulgarian Olympic Committee, expressed full support and commitment for the zero-tolerance policy towards racism both on and off the field. The fan clubs claimed racism is unacceptable and declared they will oppose it uncompromisingly in every possible way.
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