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Racism, politics at Euro 2012; problems that won’t go away

A man walks past a board with a portrait of jailed former Ukrainian Prime Minister and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko in central Kiev

A man walks past a board with a portrait of jailed former Ukrainian Prime Minister and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko in central Kiev June 1, 2012. The French government will boycott the European soccer championships to be held in Ukraine in June in protest at the treatment of the imprisoned Tymoshenko, the French sports minister said on Thursday. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich (UKRAINE - Tags: POLITICS SPORT SOCCER)

REUTERS

UEFA officials simply cannot get out from beneath their choice to hold the showpiece tournament, the European Championship, on the continent’s Eastern side.

UEFA president Michel Platini sounds utterly exasperated. And he should be. As the Daily Mail’s Martin Samuel says, Platini would prefer to talk about soccer ahead of tomorrow’s tournament opener, but he’s stuck in a defensive crouch, addressing much less pleasant issues. Instead, he’s dealing with “the hot potato topics that kept coming: racism, match-fixing in Italy, Panorama, more racism, match-fixing in Turkey, racism, expensive hotels, racism, player walk-offs, racism.”

Political undertow has been endemic around the tournament, especially in Ukraine; some European governments are boycotting the event over treatment of the political opposition there.

For their part, the problem for UEFA leadership is that Platini seems tone deaf to some of the concerns, especially on the racism end.

Keep an eye on this one; Piara Powar, the executive director of Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE), says he believe UEFA will make good on its promise to expel teams from the tournament if they cannot properly police their fans’ behavior.

ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.