Ukraine rocked by racism controversy
Victor Chikelu, a Nigerian medical student, was punched and told to go back to Africa by a drunk in the Kiev subway two years ago. But he, like other Africans who have suffered racist abuse in Ukraine's capital, has a message for soccer fans: Don't boycott Euro 2012.
"I don't think this should prevent the fans from coming down," said Chikelu. "People just need to take precautions and everything should be fine."
He points to no fatal attacks in the last 2 or 3 years as a sign that the situation is perhaps improving. Still, he says he plans to leave the country as soon as he graduates next year.
A tall and muscular man, Chikelu says the memory of the attack haunts him whenever he's out in public.
"I have gotten used to this feeling ... If I notice anything, I am always ready to run," he said, sitting by Kiev's main avenue, which within days will turn into a fan zone with big screens, packed with people from all over Europe as the soccer tournament, co-hosted by Ukraine and Poland, kicks off.
With a week to go until the tournament, Ukraine has been rocked by accusations of rampant racism. A British documentary showed thugs in one of the Euro 2012 host cities violently beating dark-skinned supporters of the same team during a domestic league match. And former England player Sol Campbell warned fans to stay at home or risk coming back in a coffin.
Ukrainian officials were outraged by the comments, saying the country has many sins but that racism isn't one of them. They are vowing that foreign fans will be safe and will have fun.