The captain of the Dutch national team says his players were subjected to racial abuse at a training session in the Polish city of Krakow this week, just days before the Euro 2012 football tournament was due to begin in Poland and Ukraine.
Several hundred people reportedly targeted black members of the squad with "monkey chants" during an open session Wednesday at the Stadion Miejski, the home of Wisla Krakow.
"It is a real disgrace especially after getting back from Auschwitz [the Dutch squad had visited the concentration camp on Wednesday] that you are confronted with this," Mark Van Bommel, the Dutch captain, told a press conference late Thursday.
"We will take it up with UEFA and if it happens at a match we will talk to the referee and ask him to take us off the field."
Euro 2012 hosts hit back at racism accusations
When questioned over the incident by Dutch journalists who claimed they did not hear the abuse, Van Bommel replied: "You need to open your ears. If you did hear it, and don’t want to hear it, that is even worse," according to ESPN.
The buildup to the football showpiece, which kicks off in Warsaw on Friday, has been marred by a host of reports highlighting incidents of racial violence in the Eastern European nations.
The families of two of England’s black players, Arsenal’s Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain and Theo Walcott, will not be traveling to Ukraine and Poland, while Italy and Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli says he will walk off the pitch if he is targeted by racists.
The England team is scheduled to hold a "ticketed" session for around 3,500 fans at the same stadium in Krakow on Friday.
UEFA president Michel Platini says players must not take matters into their own hands, and that any player that walks off the pitch will be cautioned.
Referees will deal with racists
"It is a referee’s job to stop the match and he is to do so if there are any problems of this kind. I count on the fans from Western and Eastern Europe to come to participate in a great football feast. If I am here as a UEFA chairman and you all are here it is because we want this to be a football feast, not a problem," he told reporters Thursday.
A recent documentary from the BBC featured right-wing supporters from both Poland and Ukraine displaying racist and anti-Semitic attitudes. The "Panorama" episode broadcast footage filmed at matches in both countries that purported to show fans displaying Nazi salutes in the stands and aiming monkey chants at black players. This prompted former England footballer Sol Campbell to warn fans not to travel to either country. If you did hear it, and don’t want to hear it, that is even worse.
Dutch skipper Mark Van Bommel
However, officials from the co-hosts hit out at the program. Marcin Bosacki, a Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman, told CNN it was "cheap journalism," while Volodymyr Khandogiy, Ukraine’s ambassador to Britain, said it was "unbalanced and biased reporting about the situation in Ukraine."
But Piara Power, executive director of the Football Against Racism in Europe organization, said there was still plenty of work to be done in both countries.
"I think we know the situation in domestic football in both Poland and Ukraine and I’m afraid the documentary hit the nail on the head — it’s a very bad situation," he said.
"Nevertheless there is some good work going at grass roots level to make sure that Euro 2012 inside stadiums does not resemble the sort of scenes we saw in the documentary."