A prob­lem be­yond Uefa – racism takes root in pol­i­tics

Bul­gar­ian big­ots were ex­press­ing vir­u­lent right-wing views that are preva­lent in Europe and from which Bri­tain it­self is not im­mune

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Football -

The rea­son Eng­land ran into a racist am­bush in Bul­garia goes far be­yond the in­ep­ti­tude of Uefa in pun­ish­ing of­fend­ing na­tions. Gareth South­gate’s play­ers were en­gulfed by a wider tide in Euro­pean pol­i­tics.

Ev­ery­day big­ots ex­isted be­fore the rise of so-called pop­ulism, and ev­ery­day big­ots will be in foot­ball grounds when, or if, the cur­rent na­tion­al­ist re­gres­sion runs its course. But what Eng­land en­coun­tered on Mon­day night was another level up: a seem­ingly planned in­fil­tra­tion by a shaven­headed gang dressed in black and Nazi-salut­ing.

Be­fore we turn to the sub­ject of East­ern Euro­pean xeno­pho­bia, it might be worth re­mind­ing our­selves that a quar­ter of all ter­ror­ism ar­rests in the UK in the past year have been linked to far-right vi­o­lence. Po­lice said last month that far-right ter­ror­ism was the fastest-grow­ing form on th­ese is­lands, and that a third of all plots since 2017 were con­cocted by peo­ple with ex­treme right-wing mo­ti­va­tions.

When we talk of racism in foot­ball grounds, we tend to be dis­cussing older forms of ha­tred that have been given vent in our po­larised cli­mate. Pre­vi­ously sup­pressed views are now openly ex­pressed. In the end, though, the road leads from in­di­vid­ual id­iots to the kind of or­gan­ised loathing Eng­land had to face. Bul­garia is where you end up if you al­low fascis­tic ideas (or vari­a­tions thereof) back into the main­stream.

Some con­text on Bul­garia. Ac­cord­ing to Ra­dosveta Vas­sileva, who teaches law at Univer­sity Col­lege Lon­don, the gov­ern­ment’s coali­tion with three far-right par­ties “has es­tab­lished xeno­pho­bia as a gov­ern­ment pol­icy”. The anti-“ro­mani” rhetoric ex­tends to one min­is­ter call­ing for “a fi­nal so­lu­tion to the gipsy prob­lem”.

Vas­sileva writes that each year Bul­garia “is the venue of Lukov March – a large-scale neo-nazi march” which the Bul­gar­ian au­thor­i­ties ap­pear re­luc­tant to

Warped pa­tri­o­tism: Eng­land fans clashed with po­lice and ri­val sup­port­ers in Mar­seille dur­ing Euro 2016

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