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Strong support has been evident for UEFA's Respect campaign, which was set in motion this year - and the worldwide platform offered by UEFA EURO 2008™ in June proved ideal as the tournament gave out positive vibes from start to finish.
UEFA President Michel Platini launched the initiative in the spring, and it gained wide exposure during UEFA EURO 2008™. UEFA's Respect campaign - now extended to all of UEFA's competitions - relates to the fight against social ills such as racism, violence, xenophobia and homophobia, allied to respect for the rules of the game, match officials, one's own club, the opposing club, team-mates, fellow footballers and supporters alike. "Respect can be used as an umbrella term for lots of different initiatives," said Mr Michel Platini. "There must be respect for the difference and diversity that enriches our continent."
In a tournament that shone with positive football and good will among fans, it was heartening for UEFA to see, for example, the respect shown to each other by referees, players and coaches. The respect and positive attitudes that ran through the EURO were also welcomed by UEFA's refereeing family. Few refereeing decisions were contested, and harassment was negligible. "We could see there was respect among the players and towards referees," UEFA Referees' Committee member Volker Roth told the UEFA summer referees' gathering. "This is a big signal for football, because the game needs respect and cannot be successful without it."
Europe's top coaches and managers have also given their backing to the Respect campaign. "I think respect means everything, because respect also means accepting defeat and being able to appreciate your opponents' football if they played better," said Juventus coach Claudio Ranieri. "That's respect for me. Respect your neighbour as you would your own self - that comes first. From that, you have democracy. That's the most important thing - and that's why I fully share this philosophy with UEFA."
"Respect for your opponents, respect for your team-mates, respect for the crowd. In sport and football, which is universal, we must keep a certain innocence," said Olympique Lyonnais coach Clude Puel. "It is one of the few fields where you can talk about real values like this, and we must defend this jealously." Werder Bremen trainer Thomas Schaaf said respect "is one of most important feelings and characteristics you should have in sport, but respect is immensely important in our daily lives as well."
Very good idea
Club Atlético de Madrid coach Javier Aguirre believes the initiative could not have come at a better time. "Every Sunday we witness scenes, not only in Europe but in all parts of the world, where there is a lack of respect. Managers towards players, players towards managers, towards the crowd, towards the referees. Every Sunday there are examples that prove this lack of respect. A campaign like this, applied both to football and to society as a whole, is a very good idea."
The right time
The players also had their say. For example, FC Girondins de Bordeaux midfielder and French international Alou Diarra said UEFA's Respect campaign has come at the right time as the fight continues to rid the game of racism and intolerence. "Yes, there's a need because we've seen examples recently of racist abuse in certain stadiums," said Diarra. "The fact that UEFA are focusing on respect is a strong signal. Respect is a big word. It's about respect between players, between clubs, between supporters. It's an important thing in football. It's definitely an area we have to attach a lot of importance to."
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