Friday, May 21, 2010

Teams punished after anti-Semitic banners at football match

Two football clubs from the south-east city of Rzeszow have been penalized and two people detained after an anti-Semitic banner was held aloft by fans during a local second division derby in southern Poland on May 8.

The banner was spotted among fans of Resovia Rzeszow during a match against local rivals Stal Rzeszow.

The fans chanted the “Arian horde is coming” and displayed a huge banner showing a caricatured hook-nosed Jew with a stripped blue and white yarmulke under the slogan: “Death to the Crooked Noses.”

Colours of the banner corresponded with the flag of Israel, costumes of Auschwitz camp prisoners but also the colour’s of the opposing Stal team’s strip.

Police from Rzeszow has already detained two 18-year-old Resovia fans responsible for putting up the anti-Semitic banner. They will be charged for violence against people of a different nationality, ethnic background, race, political views or faith, for which they may face up to five years in prison.

“The charges are serious because the banner calls for death,” says a prosecutor Ewa Lotczyk. Twenty more football fans, who held the banner during the match, are expected to be detained in relation to the case.

Lock out

The Polish Football Association (PZPN) has also punished the two rival football clubs from Rzeszow. In the coming month Resovia and Stal will play matches behind locked doors with no crowd and the latter will also have to pay a 2,500 zloty fine (627 euro) as it was the host of the match.

Polish Football Association (PZPN) representatives, who were present at the stadium, failed to react to the offensive banners at the time, however.

“It’s a scandal!” Resovia’s chairman and former Justice Minister Aleksander Bentkowski told the PAP news agency.

Police have already opened an investigation into the case.

The Anti-Defamation League has called on Andrzej Rusko, president of the Polish football league, to penalize the Resovia team.

“This sickening display of crude anti-Semitism is an alarming manifestation of a continuing problem in Polish society, where our opinion surveys and other polls have found disturbing levels of anti-Semitic sentiment,” said Abraham Foxman, ADL's national director, quoted by the JTA agnecy.

Foxman pointed out only 700 of Rzeszow’s 15,000 Jews survived the Holocaust.

“We call on the league’s president to sanction Resovia Rzeszow and to apply the anti-racism practices of the European football authority, UEFA,” Foxman demanded, adding that “an equally important measure of society is how authorities react to such incidents.”