A sudden and violent thunderstorm descended on Donetsk Friday, sending the Ukraine and France national teams running for cover at Donbass Arena. As fans of both countries danced away the hour-long delay in the rain on the metal bleachers, lighting continued to streak the sky.
It might not have been the brightest of moves by the fans but in recent days, it has been the water cannons of police and the thunder of UEFA that has the football world feeling a little shaken.
As fresh reports emerged Friday that Spanish and Croatian fans were allegedly hurling racist chants
at opposing players, UEFA - dealing with another racially charged matter - finally decided to flex its atrophied muscles and lay down severe punishments against the Russian Federation of Soccer (RFS).
The RFS has been fined $120,000 euros for unsafe conduct by its supporters during the opening game against Czech Republic. They will now spend the next three years under threat of a six-point deduction heading into the next Euro campaign, if the RFS cannot rein in its fans.
Additionally, UEFA announced that it has opened disciplinary proceedings against Russian fans following several incidents with Polish supporters. That included 184 arrests as brawls spiraled through the streets and a large banner was unfurled in the Polish stadium that read:
"This is Russia." A statement believed to be in reference to Moscow's control over Poland during the Cold War.Videos show violent assaults
All and all it is really just a drop in the bucket as to what has gone on so far. There are hundreds of videos popping up on YouTube that show locals, opposing fans and even onlookers engaging in violent assaults.
It shouldn't come as any surprise. Poland and the Ukraine have been long known for far-right factions who seek out these types of spectacle events to make their political statements.
But, despite the growing problems, there should be credit given where credit is due.
UEFA may have been delusional when they set out to educate the hosts with their racism campaigns, thinking they could change the culture overnight, but as the trouble arrived in the last few days, they haven't run for cover. In fact, they've confronted it head on.
That's not something their counterparts at FIFA can claim. In recent years, as warning signs of corruption emerged from within FIFA and red flags went up externally, pointing to the growing threat of match-fixing, the global game's leader has largely sat on its hands. They've been incredibly slow to react to the real and perceived threats and the game has lost a certain amount of its credibility because of their bungling.
There still remain a number of questions regarding UEFA's handling of these stories that sidetrack the narrative at the Euro 2012. Such as why they went into Poland and Ukraine in the first place if they knew the dangers associated with it. And if they weren't ignorant to the types of political problems they would face, who ultimately decided to put the fans at risk by succumbing to corporate interests seeking to open up these new markets.
Those will be questions not likely answered until the conclusion of the tournament, if at all.
But for now, where FIFA and President Sepp Blatter have failed the beautiful game, UEFA and president Michel Platini are at least trying to uphold their responsibilities to it.
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