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UEFA stages workshop on tackling racism in European football

Anti racism Members

Interactive session to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination brings together representatives from our national associations and stakeholders across Europe.

UEFA via Getty Images

On Tuesday 21 March, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, UEFA gathered representatives from the national associations for an interactive session to address key challenges caused by racism and racial discrimination in European football and explored areas for collaborative action and prevention.

Former Belgium international forward Mbo Mpenza provided participants with an inspirational speech, detailing his own experiences of racism on the pitch.

"My personal experience of racism is probably not unique, but I believe it speaks to some of the good and bad situations I had to go through before, during and after my professional career," he explained. "This topic is very important to all of us, whether in business, politics, or sports. It is a real challenge for the future, and especially for the younger generation, around the world.

"I played my first game as a professional at the age of 17, and during the game, to my surprise, I suffered monkey chants at every touch of the ball," Mpenza recalled. "Some fans were shouting at me, imitating monkeys, and making other racist comments. It was a moment of total frustration. I had the feeling of joy at having achieved my dream, mixed with a feeling of disappointment because my skin colour was what would always make me different in the eyes of these fans. I had never felt this way before. Not many people could understand the pain and the solitude that one felt at the time."

 Mbo Mpenza in action at the 2002 FIFA World Cup
Mbo Mpenza in action at the 2002 FIFA World CupGetty Images

Michele Uva, UEFA’s Football and Social Responsibility director addressed the session emphasising the need to ensure that the entire football community works together to develop education projects and systems of preventing racism.

Michele Uva, UEFA director of Football and Social Responsibility:

"We need to anticipate, we need to work hard together, we need to set targets, and we need to plan action. Enhancing football’s role in educating and preventing all forms of discrimination is crucial."

Examining concrete aspects related to racism in football, Piara Powar, executive director at the Fare Network, presented outlines regarding the definitions of racism, the development across European football in recent years, and suggested actions to prevent and manage potential incidents. The Fare Network supports the UEFA Football and Social Responsibility division on topics related to discrimination, including delivering support and educational initiatives like this session.

Piara Powar, executive director, Fare Network

"If every association on this call developed an action plan to deal with racism, whatever your assessment of the extent of the problem and the nature of the problem, I think we then begin to get to a point where we can be reassured that there will be some problems that are being addressed, and that we are heading towards a football that is more diverse and racially equal."

Following the insights of the speakers, national association representatives were split into groups for active discussion around identifying local issues regarding racism, and how European football can come together through collaborative actions. These discussions will be summarised and shared with associations, serving as a tool to support their work and development of strategic action in tackling and preventing racism.

All the efforts made on this day fall within the framework of the anti-racism policy within the UEFA Football and Sustainability Strategy and the OUTRAGED educational project.

To learn more about UEFA’s work related to anti-racism, you can also access the UEFA RESPECT Report 2021/22, which presents the actions and engagements across the strategic work on all sustainability topics.