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Czech football club backed down to racists within its own fan base over documentary screening

14.9.2016 6:53
A still shot from the documentary film
A still shot from the documentary film "FC Roma" (PHOTO: Facebook page of the film)

After the Bohemians Praha 1905 football club decided to cancel its involvement with the premiere of the documentary film "FC Roma" by Rozálie Kohoutová and Tomáš Bojar, the news server iSport.cz published an interview with the boss of the Bohemians Fan Club, Luďek Provazník, about the issue. It was the Fan Club that insisted on the cancellation.

Provazník justified the move by saying the screening represented a "serious security threat". Different factions of the fan base who do not share the same politics might have clashed with each other during the screening.

News server Romea.cz has learned that the film's distribution company offered to arrange for all of the security required and also negotiated with police regarding the premiere. Despite that, Provazník delivered the clear message as chair of the Fan Club that the premiere should not go ahead.

"We were agreed with Bohemians that we would provide security for the screening, including EMT staff and firefighters, we were in contact with the Police, and we also considered deploying Romani prevention workers. I heard nothing about any security threat until Sunday, when the chair of the Fan Club called and said the event was cancelled because of such a threat. We didn't even get the chance to discuss increasing security with him," Filip Kršiak, head of Krutón Film, which is distributing "FC Roma", told news server Romea.cz.

According to Provazník, fights and quarrels used to take place regularly at Bohemians matches until a "fragile cease-fire" was agreed to six months ago. He said that screening the documentary would "not fit with the course" that the Fan Club has announced to its members about how their gatherings will proceed.

The negotiation of the "cease-fire" was said to have resulted in an agreement that "at Bohemians there will be no politics, no racism, no flags of states where wars are happening." When the iSport.cz reporter asked whether the Fan Club believed the documentary about the Romani football club is a "political" film, the head of the club answered that "it's a bit of a politicized film. It really is."

"It's possible that after all of this, the film 'FC Roma', has become 'politicized'," director Kohoutová told news server Romea.cz. "Nevertheless, what we made is a funny film about the environment of a district football championship where, unfortunately, one team was discriminated against."

People contributing to online discussions about the issue have frequently objected in a vulgar way to the connection of the film with the Czech Government's HateFree campaign, which is also a distribution partner. Provazník alleges that by cancelling the premiere he "prevented God only knows what", even though "maybe nothing would have happened".

The director responded to those allegations by saying the football club's decision demonstrated that the screening of a film "about Gypsies in collaboration with Hatefree" is unthinkable for a certain group of its fans. "I read a few posts on the fans' online forums that absolutely frightened me. At the same time, however, I believe one should never back down in the face of violent threats," the director said.

Representatives of the HateFree Culture campaign posted to their own Facebook page that while they understood the team leadership's decision, they, too believe it is not possible to back down when people use threats of violence to object to opinions with which they disagree. The director said the documentary had originally planned as a kind of "fusion" to bring fans who would probably never actually attend matches live at a stadium with those who do not frequent the cinemas.

"I was even happier when those other fans of Bohemians called us to say that they were sorry the screening had been cancelled," the director said. "We will do our best, in any event, to screen it later, maybe at a different stadium."

The documentary familiarizes viewers with the issue of race through the eyes of a club competing in a district tournament in the Czech Republic that is predominantly comprised of Romani players. Viewers attending the Karlovy Vary Film Festival this summer were able to see the film prior to its official premiere. 

adg, voj, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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documentary film, Film, Fotbal, Racism



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