While Euro 2016 kicks off, nationalism threatens an event that is awaited by many as a celebration of fraternity transcending national identities around the shared love of the round ball.
This fact was highlighted several weeks ago with the passing Johan Cruyff: never had a player such as he so revolutionized the game. The conception of “total football”, of which he was the icon, dominates world football today through the tactical strategies of national and local clubs alike.
In a few words, “total football”, means generosity, attack, beautiful play, movement, creativity. Flamboyance. Elegance. Solidarity.
It is his spirit that will once again bring joy to millions of fans and spectators across the continent and beyond, brought together around the same passion and shared desire to share a moment of harmony and celebration.
Opposing this spirit of fraternity, is the anthem chosen as the “official song” for the Euro by Croatian supporters, and validated by the Croatian Football Federation, which is nationalist, aggressive and violent.
It is a song by the ultra-nationalist Marko Perkovic, nicknamed “Thompson”, in reference to the machine gun that carries the same name.
A fervent admirer of the pro-Nazi regime of the Ustasi, he has often used in his shows the symbols of those who were responsible for the genocide of Jews, Roma, and Serbs in Croatia. Glorifier of war crimes, Thompson’s shows were banned from several countries including the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland…
The song chosen by the Croatian supporters to represent their country, Lijepa li si, promotes the conquest of the territories of Bosnia-Herzegovina, reviving the spectre of the war in the Balkans.
This radical nationalism and xenophobia echoes that of the current Croatian Government which, just like the past ones, refuses to acknowledge Croatia’s responsibility for numerous crimes committed between 1992 and 1994 in Bosnia and Herzegovina, even though this has been confirmed in numerous cases before the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
To say the least, this song is a genuine call for hate that represents an unacceptable aggression, thus defying the values of fraternity behind the Euro competition.
To fight nationalism and promote the spirit of “total football” during the Euro, each one of us must get involved.
To the Executive Committee of UEFA, we firmly request the banning of this song, which is in total contradiction with its statutes and its commitment to the fight against racism and discrimination.1
They must also sanction the Croatian Football Federation, complicit of having accepted this call to hate as an “anthem”.
After having imposed a fine of 30 000 € to FC Barcelona simply because their supporters had waved Catalan flags in the stands, it would be incomprehensible that UEFA remain idle of hate speech and promotion of aggression.
French authorities must ensure the laws are respected and sanction the individuals, who we are ashamed to call “supporters”, who initiate this call of hate.
Finally, it is the responsibility of all those who love football to drown out this nationalist and xenophobic anthem through the beautiful songs from supporters in the stadiums, within the fan zones as well as in front of TV screens.
It is the people who must combat populism. It is the nations who must combat nationalism.
It is the democrats, and each one of us, who must fight for democracy.
During the Euro, let us ensure that the spirit of “total football” triumphs over nationalism!
European Grassroots Antiracist Movement
Youth Initiative for Human Rights (Croatia)
SOS Racisme (France)
1 Article 2 b) of the statutes of UEFA stipulate that UEFA aims to” promote football in Europe in a spirit of peace, understanding and fair play, without any discrimination on account of politics, gender, religion, race or any other reason”
Article 7bis-7 of the statutes of UEFA stipulates that “Member Associations shall implement an effective policy aimed at eradicating racism and any other forms of discrimination from football and apply a regulatory framework providing that any such behaviour is strictly sanctioned, including, in particular, by means of serious suspensions for players and officials, as well as partial and full stadium closures if supporters engage in racist behaviour”