UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has accused British Prime Minister Boris Johnson of fuelling racism.
Ceferin’s claim comes in the wake of a number of racist incidents at football matches throughout Europe.
In October, Johnson called on UEFA to show more toughness when it comes to issues of racism in football in the aftermath of an incident involving England’s national team.
The Three Lions were subjected to racist chanting while playing a Euro 2020 qualifier in Bulgaria, with the hosts subsequently ordered by UEFA to play their next home international match behind closed doors with a second fixture potentially to follow should the behaviour of fans not improve.
Additionally, the Bulgarian FA was hit with a €75,000 (£65,000/$83,000) fine for the racist behaviour of their supporters during the 6-0 defeat.
Johnson, who assumed office in July to succeed Theresa May, has come under fire for refusing to apologise for describing Muslim women wearing the burqa as looking “like letter boxes” while adding that he believed it was “ridiculous” people chose to wear them in public.
Recently, the Prime Minister was reminded of past comments he’d made regarding describing people of colour as “tribal warriors” with “watermelon smiles” and “flag-waving pickaninnies” in a column, but refused to apologise when asked if he’d personally contributed to rising racism in Britain, saying: “I defend my right to speak out”.
But Ceferin says that he believes that Johnson’s words have fuelled incidents of racism and that it’s up to politicians to set a better example.
“When a politician that calls women with burqas ‘post boxes’ or ‘mailboxes’ then says publicly that he condemns UEFA – do you reply to that? Do you believe it’s honest? Come on,” Ceferin told the Mirror.
“The situation in Europe is more and more tense. When you see high[-ranking] politicians, Prime Ministers – when you see presidents of Republics who are racists, who were sexist, you see that something is wrong.
“Because if you see an idiot from the streets shouting you say: ‘Okay, put him in prison’ and that’s it.
“But when politicians start speaking they are not punished. And we have that in Europe a lot more and more and more and more.”