Euro 2012 Soccer Showdown Brings Booze Fears
The 16-nation tournament starting today is dubbed "a firecracker waiting to go off."
Euro 2012—the biggest international soccer tournament since 2010's World Cup—kicks off today, with 16 nations contesting a trophy that was last claimed by Spain in 2008. But as the competition—co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine—begins, many fingers will be crossed that drunkenness doesn't make an unwanted intrusion. Violent fans have long posed a threat, but the behavior and drinking habits of some of the players—and even of Ukrainian police—will also be heavily scrutinized by nervous officials. England's Roy Hodgson is one coach to have laid down the law; he warned his players, whose tournament base is in the Polish party city of Krakow, "I will demand you behave as adults and I will demand that every time you are in a public place, you must not let anyone down." The tough line follows embarrassing dwarf- and drink-related scandal involving England players at last year's Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. Concerns over local policing are more sinister: “As if ultra-right football hooligans weren't enough to contend with," says Amnesty International's Ukraine campaigner Max Tucker, "visitors will need to be on the lookout for a corrupt and brutal police force known to target individuals because of their skin color. In one recent case, police pulled over an ethnic Azerbaijani and drunkenly beat him with batons for several hours while shouting racial abuse at him." The police are rarely held accountable, he continues: "Add high passions and alcohol to the mix and you have a firecracker waiting to go off."