This is one of the strong images of the evening in the Europa League. Ahead of their quarter-final return to Slavia Prague, the Arsenal players dropped to one knee in rallying to the anti-racist cause. Their opponents remained standing, like a week ago at Emirates Stadium. But unlike the first leg, the Czechs united in front of the center circle, holding each other’s arms to form a single line. Did they want to send a message?
On Wednesday, their teammate Ondrej Kudela was suspended ten games for “racist behavior”. Czech Slavia defender was under UEFA investigation after being accused of making racist remarks against Rangers midfielder Glen Kamara in the round of 16 second leg of the Europa League on March 18. The meeting had deteriorated a few minutes from the end when Kamara accused Kudela of slipping a racist insult in her ear.
Slavia denied any discriminatory comments, also claiming that Kamara assaulted Kudela after the game. On Thursday, the Czech Presidency even publicly denounced the suspension imposed by UEFA, criticizing a sanction “without proof” and “ridiculous bowings”. “I want to stress that the accusations of racism have not been proven. Even a UEFA inspector questioned whether Ondrej Kudela made the racist remark,” said indignant Vladimir Mynar, chief of staff of Czech President Milos Zeman.