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Euro body vows to exorcise racism

London: Kicking racism out of European soccer will be top of the agenda this week when Uefa officials meet to discuss an alleged volley of abuse faced by black players this season.

British clubs have been setting that agenda after players at Arsenal, Liverpool, Fulham and Ipswich Town complained of their treatment in Champions League and Uefa Cup away fixtures. Top internationals such as Arsenal’s Thierry Henry and Liverpool’s Emile Heskey had been targeted by local fans who hurled abuses, spat and threw missiles at them.

Uefa’s disciplinary body is expected to take firm action on Thursday, particularly after chief executive Gerhard Aigner insisted last month there was no place for racism in football.

However, Aigner’s men are equally convinced that the task of ridding the game of racism cannot be theirs alone.

Mike Lee, Uefa’s director of communications, said: “Hundreds of European games go on in Champions League... in which there are no incidents... We take every incident seriously... But we cannot solve these problems on our own. Everybody has a responsibility — clubs, leagues, national associations, players, stewards, police. We’ve taken every step possible.”

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger also believes behaviour inside grounds is an issue for both Uefa and clubs alike. “It’s difficult to ban a club if someone has been stupid — you cannot make everyone in the crowd intelligent or tolerant. But you can isolate (the offenders) and ban them forever.”

England international Kieron Dyer supported the idea of a permanent ban for offenders. “If anyone’s seen or heard shouting racist abuse they should have a worldwide ban.”

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