Saturday, 3 November 2012

The true cost of racism.

Earlier this week I made a post the day following the news broke regarding racist chants directed at Bili Tygri Liberec forward Wayne Simmonds. Chants of 'opice' (monkey) at Simmonds dominated the news following the game between his Liberec side and Pirati Chomutov, with the fans of Chomutov accused of directing these chants at the Philadelphia Flyers forward . These fans have already been handed lifetime bans by the club, however, there has yet to be any concrete proof linking these fans to the racist abuse directed at Simmonds.

Wayne Simmonds scored twice against Kometa after
being subject to racist taunts against Chomutov
Photo: Joerg Stephan
I have conversed numerous times with a Chomutov fan Jirka Malis, on twitter (Follow him @, and I spoke to him about this incident in detail. Jirka, a passionate follower of Pirati Chomutov, gave me a different perspective on what happened during the game with Liberec. Of course, after I saw the news break on the Czech sites, I was disgusted at the fact that Simmonds had been subject to racist abuse, but there is more to this scenario that meets the eye.

To start with, it is right to give the fan culture in the Czech Republic some context. In terms of the Chomutov fans, Jirka gives me a correct example, in the fact that he divides the fans into three main groups. Firstly, you have what are described as the "passive fans" or the happy clappers, who only cheer when the team are winning. Secondly, you have the passionate fans who love their hockey. The drummers, the people who lead the majority of the chants. This is the group that Jirka identifies himself in, and these are the fans who on the whole, make the Czech Extraliga such a great league to watch because of the atmosphere generated by these fans. Thirdly, you have the "nationalist core" (or for the purpose of this article, the "deep core"). These people, supporting their far right ideology no doubt excerpt influence on the politics of their local region, but on the whole they appear to make their fans cheer louder in the games, and make sure that even when the side is losing, the fans are giving their all to support their team, Pirati Chomutov.

Following the game against Liberec, the clubs official Facebook posted that they would not accept the word "monkey" at their stadium any more, and a number of Chomutov fans were asked to testify against members of the deep core as arrests were made following the game. In fact, members of the deep core were kept locked for over thirty hours following their arrest and questioning by the local police following the game against Liberec. This situation got so drastic that a large proportion of the Chomutov deep core refused to attend their 5:3 victory against Trinec following the heavy handed action of the local police against a minority of Chomutov fans. Five people from the Chomutov fan group were arrested, as well as named and shamed on nationwide telvision as a result of the case brought against them following the game against Liberec.

I do not condone racism by any means, and I believe that criminal cases should be brought against those who have been proven to have racially abused Wayne Simmonds last Sunday's game against Liberec. However, what I do not agree with is the heavy handedness of the Czech police and the club in the wake of this incident. It is embarrassing for both Pirati Chomutov and the Czech Republic that the event happened, but it is completely unsuitable for good, passionate fans of Chomutov, who are not proven of racism, to be feel like they are cast aside as the fall out from the incident takes place. People who have refused to testify against the racists as a result of shaky evidence fear for their position as a member of the fanclub because of the fact that they did not see the people who started the chant, and that they only heard it take place. Is it right that these fans of Pirati, who spend such a large proportion of their wages on following their club, at home and away, are threatened by lifetime bans because they refuse to testify against people whose alleged crimes are not 100% proven?

It is embarrassing for both club and country that what happened, happened. However, by being heavy handed, it could end up harming the club, and the country, a lot more than taking a step back and evaluating the situation from an objective point of view. There are clearly two points of view here, the club's view, which states that the fan club is a harbringer of racist activity, and the fans point of view, which is that the majority are being punished for the actions of the minority. Obviously I do not know what is right, and as I have previously stated, it is disgusting that Simmonds should be treated to the taunts that he was subject to in Chomutov. However, I don't feel that the heavy handed approach proposed by both the club, Pirati Chomutov, and the Czech police will serve to eradicate these racist tendencies. This heavy handed approach, of handing banning orders to fans who have yet to be proven of committing the acts will only serve to make an already disgruntled populace, even more agitated.

We can all point the finger from our point of view, but the Czech Republic has been living under different conditions to the Western world for a good fifty years before 1989, and even then the differences in culture between the Czech Republic and what was previously described as the "First World" are deeply rooted within the populace.

There are no winners from this situation, only losers.