Football star backs anti-racism crusade

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FORMER Netherlands and Chelsea footballer Ruud Gullit has teamed up with a Sheffield-based charity to endorse its anti-racism message.

Football Unites Racism Divides, based in Sharrow, has travelled to Poland and Ukraine for Euro 2012 as part of the Uefa Respect Diversity campaign.

The social inclusion project has taken its Streetkick game to the tournament and is showing how football is the perfect vehicle for uniting nations and cultures.

FURD uses an inflatable football pitch to encourage people from all backgrounds and cultures to play the game together.

Gullit, who won the European Championship in 1988 with the Netherlands, dropped by for a kickabout with FURD’s volunteers at the Warsaw fan camp.

Gullit, a Uefa Respect Diversity ambassador, said: “I’ve been to Poland many times and I have very positive impressions. I know Poland has done much to eliminate racist behaviour from stadiums.

“Therefore, I appeal directly to fans: have fun, and let the football be the only winner.”

Another former Chelsea defender in attendance, Paul Elliott, said: “Football is a great game and a powerful weapon, capable of uniting people of different skin colours - we need to use it in a positive way.”

Simon Hyacinth, coordinator at FURD, said: “Streetkick started about 10 years ago.

“During Uefa Euro 2004 in Portugal, we tried to bring fans together at a major tournament for the first time.

“We encouraged them to interact, to make new friends and have fun together.

“It worked really well, so since then, we have been to the 2006 Fifa World Cup in Germany and Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland, and now we are doing it again here.

“We inspire fans to play together, to spend free time in a positive way, and, finally, we show positive aspects of diversity.”