Powar: Prandelli is not the problem
Leading anti-racism campaigner Piara Powar has no issues with Cesare Prandelli even though the Italy coach claimed earlier this week Mario Balotelli had not been the subject of racist abuse.
Prandelli angrily denied Balotelli had been targeted by Spain supporters during Sunday's 1-1 draw in Gdansk. On Tuesday though, UEFA confirmed they were investigating alleged abuse, which had been drawn to their attention by monitors with the Spanish fans.
Powar knows Prandelli well and believes the robust denial came more through mis-information than any attempt to sweep the matter under the carpet, and he said: "Prandelli is a decent guy, who supports a lot of progressive causes. He is aware of the issues and very open to the debate about them. The fact he didn't know, just highlights the difficulties."
He added: "It does seem Russia are in denial to some extent but the fact those Spain fans admitted there was a problem shows we are moving forward."
Confirmation that issues at Euro 2012 go beyond skin colour came through the clashes surrounding Poland's draw with Russia in Warsaw on Tuesday night.
Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) have also brought a couple of ultra-nationalist flags to UEFA's attention, whilst there have been other examples of xenophobic chanting or gestures that have scarred the competition.
"We only have to look at the abuse people from Poland and Romania have received on occasion in the United Kingdom to see how attitudes can harden," said FARE executive director Powar.
"In different areas it is not just about skin colour and Russia's relationship with Poland is a case in point.
"We have seen flags in Poland with swastikas on them, and Celtic crosses. Who are they aimed at? It is a very complex problem."
Nevertheless, if it means eastern Europe begins to confront such problems, Powar is glad the tournament ended up in the region.
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