Friday, December 21, 2012

Singing in the Ukraine

Yesterday's draw for the first knockout stage of the Europa League paired us with Ukranian outfit Metalist Kharkiv. As the Silver Fox acknowledged, it's not likely to be an away fixture our fans will relish, given that they're based the best part of 300 miles east of Kiev and the February temperatures will be decidedly chilly.

As anyone who watched the Panorama programme in the run-up to Euro 2012 will know, it hardly promises to be an enjoyable trip for our black players either. The Metalist fans may not have issued an open letter asking the club not to sign black and gay players (unlike Zenit St Petersburg, who've been drawn against Liverpool), but they nevertheless have an unsavoury track record of racist abuse.

Speaking to the Sun, Olivier Bernard recalled his experience of playing Dinamo Kiev: "The abuse we received when we played in the Ukraine was awful. I wouldn’t have any great confidence that the situation has improved since. But the level of security we were met with was unbelievable — there were police everywhere. It made you feel like a president. I’d expect Newcastle to be given that level of protection again. It’s sad but it needs to be that way."

It's all about preparation, and the Silver Fox is adamant that we'll be ready for whatever the team can throw at us on the pitch, even if the barracking the players receive from the stands proves harder to cope with.

As you may have seen in the comments box, to counterbalance what with hindsight is a somewhat knee-jerk and prejudiced post, here are the thoughts of Toon fan Michael Hudson aka The Accidental Groundhopper and Lanterne Rouge of The Two Unfortunates on their experience of watching games in the Ukraine.

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Anonymous Lanterne Rouge said...

No question that Ukraine is a very monocultural society but I enjoyed a recent trip there and found almost everyone I met to be pleasant and welcoming. I've written about it for The Accidental Groundhopper:

1:09 p.m.  
Blogger Ben said...

Good stuff - thanks for the pointer. Looking back, my post was perhaps a bit knee-jerk and prejudgemental. Innocent until proven guilty and all that. Best to just to wait and see what happens and hope there's no trouble.

1:46 p.m.  

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