Opinion Editorial
Sweden's Shame
By Nuri Kino

(AINA) -- Editor's note: Assyriska, the football team in Sweden that is seen as a national team for Assyrians throughout the world, could have advanced to the national league of Sweden but was stopped by violence and threats against players, coaches and judges. The incidents have been major news in Swedish media in the last week, and have been debated on prime time on both national television and radio. Assyriska's board has submitted official reports on the game. The renowned Assyrian journalist Nuri Kino was at the game when the violence erupted. Read his guest editorial below.

I shouted "look, look, they are throwing themselves at our players." The police officer next to me did not say a word, nor did he react. What should be expected of him? That he was supporting Djurgården, which he managed to hide -- almost. Minutes before, when the team from Stockholm scored its third goal, the same officer jumped and smiled a bit until he realised that he was on duty and went back to his serious face.

My friend Stefan Erdman and I had decided to film the possible promotion of Assyriska to Allsvenskan. Erdman and I belong to a group that a couple of years ago produced a series of documentary of the year Assyriska was on the Allsvenskan for Swedish Television (one of which received the Golden Palm in Hollywood).

Hours before the game on Sunday, we decided to leave the cameras at home as we wanted to watch the game, as supporters rooting the team rather than producers making a film. During the year we produced "Assyriska -- landslag utan land" we got close to both the players and the supporters. Erdman, Erik Sandberg, Håkan Berthas, Oscar Hedin and other producers that were part of this work were all taken by the love that surrounds Assyriska. As I had nothing to compare this love with, I took most of it and what we witnessed for granted. No homogenous hooligans belong to Assyriska, this team's loyal supporters consist of as many men as women. Among them we see elderly men with hat and walking stick to 10 year old girls having their face painted red and white. A friend of mine that works as a clothing designer has told me that she goes to an Assyriska match to get inspiration because this is the place to see what the latest fashion is. Assyriska has also the biggest commitment towards the children and youth in Sörmland (a province in Sweden with over 1 million in population). This club is carried by the efforts of committed volunteers.

Many in the crowd are my relatives, the only time my mother has missed a game in Södertälje has been when she has been at the hospital. This game on Sunday she was not allowed to go by us. We told her that the supporters from Djurgånden are too dangerous and that we could not guarantee her safety in case we would have to run away from the violence. Erdman left when there were three minutes left because he wanted to get away from the traffic that would follow after the game. The game was over and Djurgården has kept their place in Allsvenskan. Everything that could go wrong did. Several players were injured even before the game, two could not play and one had to leave the field just after eight minutes. The ball is round. There is no point in being a bad looser. Assyriska lost. The referee blew the final whistle. The police officers rushed towards our end of the stand, the other stand with 8,000 supporter of Djurgården, many of whom were affected by alcohol and narcotics, were left almost without any supervision. It should be known that the Assyriska supporters were like they always have been, with as many women as there were men, younger as elderly. Yet, the police came to stop us from running to the field, something that we know has been forbidden since April this year.

The game was over. The supporters of Assyriska cried, were hugging each other and some shouted their disappointment. Our dream of being part of Allsvenskan had been shattered. We consoled each other, knowing that the team still made a fantastic season.

"Bang. Boom." Hundreds of Djurgården supporters ran towards the field. They all looked and behaved like wild animals. The Assyriska players were still on the field. The police were busy protecting the supporters and players of Djurgården from the disappointed supporters from Assyriska. We all see the assault of our Assyriska players. We did not only lose the game, not only did we have to listen to the racist songs before, during and after the game, but we also had to witness the assault of our beloved players. My cousin got a minor heart attack. The incident was too much for him.

Not once in football's history have we seen professional athletes being assaulted in this way. Not once has a football player been attacked directly after the game by the supporters of the opponent team. This is extremely serious. Commentators around the world were shocked when they pointed out this atrocity. We have to show here in Sweden that we do not accept this. This cannot be glossed over.

I can only imagine the head lines if the attack was the other way around -- if the Assyriska supporters were attacking the players of Djurgården, because of their victory. Here we see Assyriska players getting assaulted even though Djurgården won! On the SVT website, you can read following (translated from Swedish): 'After the scandal in Stockholm Stadium Assyriska does not want to play there anymore. "My personal opinion is that I never want to sit on the bench anymore," says Håkan Lindström, the assistant manager of Assyriska. During the game, objects were thrown at the players' bench and players who were warming up were threatened by the supporters of Djurgården. "Two minutes before the game, we were instructed that it is not a high risk match, yet we were instructed to run off the field in case it gets stormed by the supporters. But we could not say that to the players, they should not need to be thinking about that."

Lindström calls the conclusion that it was not a high risk match preposterous. The president of the football federation, Lars-Åke Lagrell, wondered in Expressen if the game should not have been played in Råsunda Stadium instead, as it would have had better security. Lindström also points out the problem with the working environment "We had to work during threatening conditions. It concerned the players, the managers and other staff members. The players are confused and upset after the incident at the Stadium. Lindström cannot eliminate the risk that this experience might cause them permanent damage. "To be 18-19 year old, and work under there circumstances cannot be easy. The next time they play a similar game, they might wonder whether they will make it off the field"'.

The management around Djurgården and the police have to show that they are serious when it comes to taking responsibility. I am not a bad loser but I and every other Assyriska supporter would like to be treated on the same condition. It is up to the Swedish Football Federation and the juridical system to show no tolerance for such assaults of the Assyriska players, or else they will put the whole Swedish sports movement into shame forever and cause this behaviour to get worse. This act cannot be swept away -- we have to make sure that this incident will not be forgotten or covered up.

Nuri Kino is a journalist in Sweden specializing in investigative journalism, and is one of the most highly awarded journalists in Europe (CV). He is an Assyrian from Turkey. His documentary, Assyriska: a National team without a Nation, was awarded The Golden Palm at the 2006 Beverly Hills Film festival.


Views and opinions expressed in guest editorials do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of AINA.
Guest Editorial Policy

Type your comment and click
or register to post a comment.
Bookmark and Share

* required field
User ID* enter user ID or e-mail to recover login credentials
Password*