Platini warns of new 'dark days' of hooliganism
VIENNA - Agence France-Presse
Newly re-elected UEFA president Michel Platini (C) receives congratulations from Senes Erik (R) at the Ordinary UEFA Congress in Vienna, Austria on March 24, 2015. AFP Photo
UEFA president Michel Platini on March 24 warned of a return to the "dark days" of hooliganism in Europe fired by a rise in nationalism and extremism.
Platini, who is to be reelected unopposed to a third term leading Europe's governing body, said governments had to stop a return to the 1980s when "hooligans and all manner of fanatics called the shots" in many European stadiums.
The former football star highlighted the 30th anniversary of the 1985 Heysel stadium disaster in Brussels, when 39 people died. Platini played for Juventus against Liverpool in the European Cup final.
"Europe is seeing a rise in nationalism and extremism the like of which we have not witnessed for a very long time," Platini told UEFA's annual congress in Vienna.
"This insidious trend can also be observed in our stadiums, as football is a reflection of society. Given its popularity, our sport is a barometer for the ills of our continent. And that barometer is pointing to some worrying developments."
Crowd troubles and racist abuse have mounted in stadiums across Europe in the past two years, but particularly in recent months.
+ The Greek government halted the main football league for one week this year because of repeated crowd troubles and pitch invasions. The Greek Cup final between AEK Athens and Olympiakos was called off because of a pitch invasion.
+ Dynamo Kiev's Europa League game against French side Guingamp was halted for 15 minutes because of crowd trouble. The Ukrainian side had to close part of their stadium for the next round against Everton. They were also fined.
+ Feyenoord's Europa League game against AS Roma in Rotterdam was suspended for more than 10 minutes after a large inflatable banana was thrown on the pitch towards Roma's Ivory Coast winger Gervinho.
"In these battles that we are fighting, we feel as if we have been left to fend for ourselves somewhat. And yet, these are battles that can only be won with the help of the public authorities," Platini added.
The UEFA president said that governments had to take action "so that we can avoid reliving the dark days of a not-so-distant past - a past where hooligans and all manner of fanatics called the shots in certain European stadiums.
"In recent months, we have all been struck by certain images that I thought were a thing of the past. Some of us experienced that past at first hand. In my case, it was exactly 30 years ago."
Platini was a key player for Juventus in the Heysel stadium where 39 mainly Juventus fans were crushed to death following troubles in the stadium.
Platini called for tougher and European wide bans on known troublemakers in stadiums.
"We need tougher stadium bans at European level and - I will say it again - the creation of a European sports police force," he said.